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Florida: "Poignant" AIDS Exhibit Visiting Volusia County

February 11, 2013

Beginning February 14, Daytona State College will display the HIV Project Mobile Art Exhibit. The display features photographs of Floridians with HIV, their journal entries, videos, and free testing, in an attempt to humanize HIV. One Ormond Beach resident called the exhibit "quite poignant," stating that the exhibit gets to the heart of putting a face with HIV.

A project of the Florida Department of Health, the mobile display has circulated around the state with stops in Orlando, Jacksonville, and South Florida. The display emphasizes disparities in the disease, making stops at the African-American Museum of the Arts in DeLand and Bethune-Cookman University. Although recent progress has been made, blacks are more apt to both contract and die of AIDS. CDC has identified several contributing factors for the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the black community: a stigma against HIV and homophobia, economic barriers, lack of insurance, and social instability caused by a high incarceration rate for black men.

Florida ranks third in the United States for HIV and AIDS rates, with an estimated 135,000 people living with the disease. The Volusia County Health Department states that in Volusia and Flagler counties, 1,497 people have HIV or AIDS, and an additional 300 people possibly have the disease but do not realize it. In Volusia and Flagler, blacks comprise 40 percent of the people living with HIV or AIDS, even though they make up only 10 percent of the population, declares Patrick Forand, Volusia County Health Department's HIV/AIDS coordinator. The number of people living with HIV has gradually increased in recent years, according to Forand, which is attributed in part to HIV patients having longer lives because of advancements in medication. In 1995, 75 people died of AIDS in Volusia County; that number decreased to 17 in 2011. Forand points out that reaching that part of the population that has the disease but does not realize it is crucial in halting its spread. Declares Forand, "The biggest message is to know your status and get tested. The resources are available."

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Excerpted from:
Daytona Beach News-Journal
02.10.2013; Skyler Swisher

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