In the hard-hit South Florida metropolitan area, two AIDS service organizations are collaborating to protect client services and to address the underlying causes of the epidemic.
"In times like these, where monies are shrinking, agencies need to work together as opposed to doing things separately," said Christine Stroy-Martin, who holds leadership positions in both Empower U (EU) and the Center for Positive Connections. "We collaborate on projects including fundraising, grant writing, community awareness, client education, and social events," she said.
The organizations are particularly concerned about the latest CDC statistics on HIV in the African-American community. While blacks represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they comprise 46 percent of the people with HIV and about 45 percent of the new infections each year.
CDC estimates the 2008 rate of new HIV diagnoses in Florida at 42.7 per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 19.4 for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Service providers in the Miami area, particularly Liberty City, struggle to provide the broad range of services their clients need.
"We are the only black-run agency in Liberty City and we take all kinds of people with all kinds of problems," said Johnny Rogers, assistant supervisor of medical case management for EU.
One of the founders of EU seeks to eliminate the stigma attached to the mode of HIV transmission.
"Too many people are concerned with 'why' a person is HIV-positive, especially in the black community," said Vanessa Mills, EU's executive director and co-founder. "What we need our community to realize is that transmission of the disease can be prevented and that even if you discover that you are positive, there are behaviors and lifestyles that one can adopt that will keep [a person] alive and healthy for many, many years."