Florida: HIV Hits Blacks Harder
November 30, 2006
One in 42 black Palm Beach County residents has HIV, but this recent state Department of Health figure has, surprisingly, not attracted many people's attention, said Lorenzo Robertson of the county health department. A series of meetings to plan a strategic county response has been sparsely attended, he said.
"I invited the county commissioners, the mayor and the city commission," Robertson told some 30 mothers, fathers, teens and children attending one recent meeting. "But they had better things to do."
Bishop Lewis White has been to all the meetings since the release of the state's "Silence Is Death" report. His United Deliverance Resource Center brings HIV testing and condoms to marginalized neighborhoods. But reducing AIDS mortality and new infections will require resources to address social and economic factors that make the community vulnerable. "Will someone please tell me, where is the money?" he asked.
Black county residents are 2.5 times more likely to have HIV than white residents, Robertson said. And though blacks comprise 15 percent of residents, they account for 65 percent of those with HIV/AIDS, he said. Meanwhile, African-American residents have a 10 percent unemployment rate, compared to less than 4 percent for white residents. While 23 percent of African-American residents live below the poverty line, just 7 percent of white residents do.
"Why are these things happening, and why are we allowing them to happen?" asked Robertson, the department's regional minority AIDS coordinator.
The solutions must come from federal and state sources, said West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who was invited but said she did not think her attendance in any of the meetings would help. The state report identified local governments as stakeholders in fighting the epidemic, noted Robertson, in addition to churches, schools, community groups and people with HIV/AIDS. "They're doing us just like they did the white gays," he said, "saying, 'That's their problem.'"
Palm Beach Post
11.18.2006; Antigone Barton