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U.S. News

Florida: State Health Department Wants More AIDS Education for Blacks

May 30, 2008

On Saturday, the Mother Wit Institute Inc.'s "Silence is Death" conference will spotlight how HIV/AIDS is affecting Florida's black community. The event -- which features the state Department of Heath's HIV/AIDS bureau chief, Tom Liberti, and Ron Henderson, the state minority AIDS coordinator -- will be held at the Baptist Center on Strong Street in Pensacola.

More than half the HIV/AIDS patients in Florida are black, though blacks comprise just 15 percent of the state's population. In Escambia County, one in 150 black residents is living with HIV/AIDS compared with one in 539 white residents, according to the state Department of Heath.

"We're trying to educate people where they live, work, play, and worship," Henderson said.

For some people, the perception of how AIDS affects black people may still lag behind reality. AIDS is the top cause of death among black men and women ages 25-44, according to the state Department of Health.

Remaining silent and doing nothing would let AIDS continue to devastate Florida's black community, Liberti said. Instead, black religious groups statewide have joined the health department and the African Methodist Episcopal Church to set up an HIV testing site in at least one church in each county.

In Volusia County, the Daytona Beach-based Stewart-Marchman Foundation joined restaurants to offer free meal coupons as an incentive for oral HIV testing. And health workers in Polk County are training beauticians to perform outreach with clients.

"That's what we mean by leadership," said Liberti. "We can't do this ourselves."

Back to other news for May 2008

Adapted from:
Pensacola News Journal
05.29.2008; Reginald T. Dogan

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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.
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