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Florida: Health Officials Urge People Not to Be Complacent About Discussing Sex Risks, HIV Tests

January 4, 2012

For a decade, Broward County has had one of the nation's highest rates of new HIV infections per capita. There, the virus is spreading mainly among men who have sex with men and young-to-middle-age black adults engaging in unprotected sex.

To slow the epidemic, CDC has enlisted the Broward Health Department to help educate area health care providers on the need to routinely offer HIV testing to patients. Several million dollars in new grants are supporting the effort.

"Everybody has become complacent, even the doctors," said Cynthia Peterson, executive vice president for the Broward County Medical Association (BCMA). Doctors are being urged to address the topics of sex and HIV during patient checkups. Routine HIV testing can help find the estimated 20 percent of those who do not know they are infected, experts say.

But misperceptions about HIV remain entrenched for some. "When I ask someone to let me do an HIV test, they immediately say, 'Why, do you think I'm doing something? I'm clean. I'm married. I'm not gay.' There is still a lot of stigma," said Kutty Chandran, BCMA president and a family care provider in Coral Springs. "People get defensive."

"People don't use protection because they think they can't get HIV if they are straight or married," said Audrey Clarke, a Holy Cross Hospital outreach coordinator who conducts screenings at churches and other locations. "I tell them, 'Are you sure about your partner?' I say we should not just blindly trust our partner and whoever they [had sex] with. That means get tested."

Back to other news for January 2012

Adapted from:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
12.29.2011; Bob LaMendola

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More HIV Prevention Policy News on Florida

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