Local and Community News
Miami: Day at Park to Try to Build Awareness of AIDS; Official Say Disease an Epidemic Among Blacks
February 6, 2003
Outreach workers and health care providers will gather Friday at Charles Hadley Park, 1300 NW 50th St. in Miami, from 2 to 7 p.m. to observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Determined to retard the spread of HIV/AIDS in Miami-Dade County, local HIV/AIDS agencies will conduct free HIV oral tests, distribute literature about STDs, and educate the public about the prevalence of HIV in predominantly black Miami neighborhoods.Adapted from:
"A lot of African Americans in Miami-Dade County don't realize that we're in the middle of an epidemic," said Whitney Houston, a program evaluator at MOVERS Inc., an HIV/AIDS prevention and case management agency for blacks in South Florida. Houston will chair the Miami chapter of Awareness Day.
A December 2002 Florida Department of Health report stated that blacks account for 51 percent of all reported HIV-positive cases in the United States, and Florida blacks make up 56 percent of the state's HIV-positive population, although they represent only 18 percent of the general population. Miami-Dade County Department of Health cumulative figures released in June 2002 showed blacks accounting for 54 percent of reported HIV cases.
Outreach workers face challenges in the black community because of stigma attached to the virus and testing, including the widespread belief that only gay men or substance abusers get AIDS. "If someone sees you taking an HIV test, they assume something must be wrong with you," said Houston. MOVERS tests 200-250 people for HIV a month. Half do not return for their results; of those who do, about 5 percent are positive.
Houston added that it has been difficult to enlist black religious leaders into the fight against the epidemic. "Until the black church mobilizes the community," she said, "we're going to stagger." Touchy as the subject may be, she said, religious leaders and parents need to begin the dialogue. "Bottom line," she noted, "it's the only way to avoid becoming another unnecessary statistic."
02.06.03; Ernesto Londono
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.