Miami Herald Examines Efforts To Improve HIV/AIDS Knowledge Among Young People
The Miami Herald on Monday examined efforts to improve HIV/AIDS knowledge among young people and combat the stigma associated with the disease. According to the Herald, the effectiveness of modern antiretroviral drugs has created the perception among some young people that HIV/AIDS is not a fatal condition. Charles Martin, director of the South Beach AIDS Project, said, "In the '80s, you'd see people losing weight and becoming gaunt. People called [HIV/AIDS] a death sentence." However, young people today who "haven't seen the devastation begin to look at AIDS as a manageable condition," Martin said.
According to Martin, some young people decide not to use condoms because they "just get tired of all the precautions." He continued, "They think they've missed the intimacy. They say, 'I don't want that barrier anymore.'" In addition, some young people continue to have misperceptions about HIV risk factors, according to Martin. He said, "We still have to overcome the idea that HIV is linked only to the gay community. It's especially true in the black community. They think they will never get it if they're not gay."
Damaries Cruz, an HIV/AIDS educator with the Miami-Dade Health Department, is working with local journalism students at Florida International University to produce a four-part series of Web-based episodes called "The Stigma Stops With Me." The aim is to combat HIV/AIDS stigma and misperceptions among young people. Cruz also is part of the Spanish language "SOY..." ("I AM...") campaign launched last year by Univision and the Kaiser Family Foundation, which uses personal stories of Hispanics living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones to reach out to the Hispanic community. Leilani Laureano, a FIU student, said that HIV/AIDS is taboo in the Hispanic community, where many people believe that only men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers and injection drug users have HIV.
According to the Herald, Florida in 2007 reported 6,235 new HIV cases and 1,747 AIDS-related deaths. According to the Florida Department of Health, Fort Lauderdale ranked third for new HIV cases in U.S. urban areas in 2007, with Miami ranking fourth and Palm Beach ranking 11th (Tasker, Miami Herald, 3/2).
"The Stigma Stops With Me" episodes are available from the Herald online.