Florida HIV/AIDS Advocacy Groups, Health Departments To Increase HIV Awareness Among Minorities Ahead of National HIV Testing Day
HIV/AIDS advocacy groups and health departments in Florida are planning several events aimed at increasing awareness about HIV among minorities ahead of National HIV Testing Day, which is scheduled for Friday, the Naples Daily News reports.
According to the Daily News, Florida in 2006 reported the third-highest AIDS rate for blacks and fourth-highest rate for Hispanics nationwide, as well as the highest rate for whites. Amalia Zamot, regional minority HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Florida Department of Health, said that there is a "general disproportion" in HIV/AIDS rates among white and minority communities in the area. She added that the disparity is especially true for the area's black community, in which one in every 72 people is living with HIV/AIDS.
Advocacy groups and county health departments are implementing several programs in an effort to increase awareness and improve testing rates among minorities. The Collier County Health Department is offering on-site testing, treatment, education and support programs, according to Scott Tims, the department's HIV/AIDS program manager. Tims added that department staff also are increasing outreach efforts and are working with local churches and not-for-profit groups to increase testing and establish outreach programs. In addition, the Lee County Health Department has set up several HIV testing centers throughout the region.
Although advocates and health workers are working to improve testing among minorities, Zamot said efforts also need to be made to reduce stigma associated with the virus. "We have to be culturally sensitive and culturally proficient," Zamot said (Batista, Naples Daily News, 6/21).