Local and Community News
HIV/AIDS Outreach Worker Hits South Beach, Fla., Hot Spot
February 21, 2003
Six nights a week, Miguel Cruz, a 30-year-old model, hits the gay clubs at South Beach. On a recent Thursday night, wearing jeans, worn brown leather cowboy boots and a fitted shirt, he set up shop in front of the Laundry Bar. "Here, have some condoms and lube," he said to passersby entering the club, which is popular among gay men Thursday nights. "We also provide free HIV testing -- no needles, no pain."Adapted from:
Cruz is an outreach worker with the South Beach AIDS Project, a nonprofit prevention and case management agency that targets gay and bisexual men in their 20s who frequent gay hot spots in South Beach. In addition to street outreach, Cruz is spearheading Empowerment Project, a new program funded by CDC designed to pluck gay men out of the gay circuit scene and tune them into healthier living. The agency hosts safe sex seminars and day and evening social outings. Most events are free.
"We started this because we've found that men between the ages of 18 and 29 are less committed to practicing safe sex," Cruz said, nothing that this is a group whose fear of AIDS and other STDs has waned recently. He targets those seeking one-night stands, no-strings-attached sex, drugs and unprotected sex.
Sex between men accounts for 43 percent of HIV cases recorded by the state's Department of Health. Of the 27,900 new HIV cases between July 1997 and November, 23 percent were individuals ages 19-29.
Although Cruz enjoys his modestly paid job, he admits that promoting safe sex and healthy living in South Florida's gay party scene is often taxing. As he hands out his nightly supply of 300 condoms, many guys ignore him, others giggle, and a few make passes at him. "Do you come with the condoms?" asked one bar patron. "No, but if you come to my office, I'll test you for HIV for free," replied Cruz, offering him a business card.
02.16.03; 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.