Cavalier Attitude Blamed as HIV Cases Soar in South Florida
February 13, 2003
New HIV infections leaped by an unprecedented 44 percent in Palm Beach County, 30 percent in Broward County and 18 percent in Miami-Dade County last year, as South Florida's struggle with AIDS intensified.Adapted from:
The new numbers, released by the state Department of Health, show that after several years in decline, HIV infections, which had ticked upward in 2001, skyrocketed in 2002. Health officials on Wednesday attributed the jump to a growing cavalier attitude toward unprotected sex. Some said they were perplexed about why the safe sex message is not getting out.
"These numbers are staggering to me. I'm dumbfounded by it," said Naomi Parker, chair of the HIV Planning Council in Broward and head of the CPC Foundation outreach group.
All three counties reported record numbers of HIV infections: 1,765 in Miami-Dade, 1,086 in Broward and 519 in Palm Beach County. Also, AIDS cases rose by 12 percent in Palm Beach County to 531 cases and by 8.5 percent in Broward to 750 cases.
The new figures show that South Florida has growing problems with HIV in multiple communities, making it more difficult to combat than in many other metropolitan areas, said Tom Liberti, AIDS director at the state health department. "You have a complex epicenter of cases in men who have sex with men, injection drug users, heterosexuals and foreign-born people," Liberti said. "Each of those has different needs. One single approach does not work."
Some activists said counties and AIDS groups need to do a better job of tailoring messages to ethnic communities and targeting groups, such as immigrants, who may not trust governments or institutions.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
02.13.03; Bob LaMendola