Stop AIDS: Keep the
opinion piece prepared for publication on World AIDS Day,
December 1, 2005
W. Darrow, Ph.D.
County leads the nation in newly reported AIDS cases with a
rate of 58.4 per 100,000. Miami-Dade follows closely behind
with 57.8, and Palm Beach County ranks fifth with 39.5. How
could this be?
clear about one thing—these rates are not statistical
artifacts. We have known about the serious problem of HIV
disease in south Florida for at least the last decade.
Poster 23546 displayed at the 12th World AIDS Conference
held in Geneva, Switzerland, in summer 1998 indicated that
AIDS cases among 18-25 year old residents of Fort
Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Pierce were the
highest in the nation in 1995-96. It should have been a
call to action for all of us living in south Florida.
help of Hispanic Unity of Florida, Minority Development and
Empowerment, Think Life, Inc., and the Broward County Health
Department, public health professionals at Florida
International University prepared a grant application and
submitted it in summer 1999 to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) to address the HIV crisis among
racial and ethnic minority young adults living in Broward
County. Our application was one of 32 selected by CDC for
funding as part of their Racial and Ethnic Approaches to
Community Health (REACH) 2010 initiative.
summer 2000, the Coalition to Eliminate Disparities in HIV
Disease in Broward’s Minority Communities completed its
comprehensive needs assessment. Our community action plan
was one of 24 chosen by CDC for implementation and
evaluation support. Over the past five years, our community
demonstration project has been addressing the HIV-prevention
needs of 18-39 year old African American, Hispanic, Haitian
and other Caribbean Islanders of African ancestry living in
the highest AIDS incidence areas of Broward County. In the
process, we are learning why rates of HIV disease continue
to be so high in these communities.
delivering culturally competent education and promoting
community empowerment, we have demonstrated steady progress
toward reaching our goals of raising consciousness,
increasing participation in HIV-prevention efforts, and
encouraging community ownership of the problem. But we have
also learned that we still have a very long way to go. Only
22.1% of young minority adults living in the areas of
highest AIDS incidence recognize that the AIDS problem is
much higher in Broward County than elsewhere. Just 5.4% of
respondents surveyed this summer said they had done
something about the AIDS problem in the past year.
Coalition faces the biggest obstacle of all. CDC and other
federal agencies have cut our annual budget in half. No
monies are available in 2006 to pay our community partners
for educational outreach, strategic communications, capacity
building, or public health infrastructure development. Our
most effective intervention activities have been curtailed.
Consistent with the theme of this, the 18th celebration of
World AIDS Day, we ask the Secretary of the Department of
Health and Human Services, Director of CDC, and Director of
the Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities to
keep their promise by fully funding our AIDS-prevention
efforts. Reversing trends in HIV transmission in south
Florida requires a long-term commitment to disease
prevention. With Broward County leading the nation in the
rate of newly reported AIDS cases, this is no time to let
our people down.
Darrow is a professor in the Robert R. Stempel School of
Public Health at Florida International University. He
serves as Project Leader for the REACH 2010 Coalition in
on to end stigma of AIDS among Latinos
State health department officials are banking on new testing
programs to help stem new HIV cases among Hispanics. HIV and
AIDS have a disproportionate impact on Latinos.
BY FRED TASKER
Posted on Thu, Oct. 13, 2005 Miami Herald
Diana Wasserman-Rubin hadn't seen her favorite cousin,
Luisito, in years. Her aunt kept putting her off, telling
her he was too busy.
''Then he died,'' said Wasserman-Rubin, a Broward County
commissioner. ``My aunt said it was lupus. It wasn't. It was
AIDS. And she took away my last chance of seeing him.''
Her point: ``Our Latino culture sweeps things under the rug.
We have to change that if we're going to fight AIDS.''
It was a major theme at a Wednesday press conference in Fort
Lauderdale to publicize National Latino AIDS Awareness Day
''HIV and AIDS have a disproportionate impact on Latinos in
the United States and in Florida,'' said Thomas Liberti,
chief of the HIV/AIDS bureau of the Florida Department of
Health. ``The stigma on AIDS among Latinos creates barriers
to testing and treatment.''
Liberti expressed hope Florida's new programs of testing and
treating Hispanics can achieve the same decrease in HIV
cases it has among blacks. In June, Florida Secretary of
Health John Agwunobi announced new HIV diagnoses dropped by
24 percent among the state's black men, 36 percent among
''We can do the same thing with Hispanics,'' Liberti said.
It will be a struggle, he acknowledged. In fact, AIDS
appears to have increased since 2000 among the state's
Hispanics. They make up 17 percent of Florida's adult
population, but their share of AIDS cases grew from 14
percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2004, a Florida Department
of Health study says.
''In 2004,'' the study says, ``the reported AIDS rate per
100,000 among Hispanic men was 73.5, more than double that
for whites (32.4). Among Hispanic women the rate was 19.3
per 100,000, more than triple that for whites (6.0).''
But Liberti said at least part of the apparent increase
isn't real -- it's because the increased testing is finding
a bigger percentage of existing cases.
State testing of Hispanics soared 79 percent between 2000
and 2004, he said. So even though the testing found more
cases of AIDS, the rate of positive tests actually fell,
from 1.9 percent to 1.6 percent of those tested.
''I'm hoping the numbers will plateau for a couple of years,
then drop,'' he said.
Another reason for optimism, Liberti said, is that, while
Hispanics make up 17 percent of the state's population, they
make up 29 percent of patients being helped by the state's
$90-million-a-year AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
It runs pharmacies around the state to provide up to 56
anti-HIV drugs to those who can't afford them.
The program serves 5,000 patients in Miami-Dade County and
3,000 in Broward, he said.
But others described the difficulties of fighting AIDS among
Hispanics in South Florida.
Reach 2010, a Florida International University program
that sends counselors to urge the most vulnerable to be
tested, recently lost 52 percent of its federal funding,
said Josie Bacallao, executive director of Hispanic Unity,
one of the groups working with the FIU program.
''We go after the young and men who have sex with men,'' she
``We find out where they go and we go there -- fingernail
salons, churches, supermarkets, nightclubs. We discuss the
issues, give them condoms and urge them to get tested.''
Broward Works to
Keep AIDS Promise
HIV/AIDS educators, advocates and others will speak at the
Broward County Main Library today to commemorate World AIDS
Day and raise awareness.
By Darran Simon and Andrea Robinson
Posted on Thu, Dec. 01, 2005
Several times a month, Samantha Kuryla lays out her life on
She uses chalk and scribbles to tell Broward schoolchildren
and others in the community about the shock of learning she
had contracted HIV 14 years ago. She talks about the denial,
a miscarriage, a second pregnancy, then, a precious little
boy named Christian. She'll mention the mission that grew
out of her misfortune, all while drumming home a strong
''You are the most important person in your life,'' said
Kuryla, 40, whose son, Christian, was diagnosed with HIV
when he was seven months old. ``Protect yourself.''
Kuryla, an educator for Broward's Children's Diagnostic &
Treatment Center, is one of four speakers who will gather
today at the Broward County Main Library to commemorate
World Aids Day. They will be part of thousands of events
The United Nations estimates some 40 million people are
infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. About 2.2
million of them are children, according to the UN, which
launched a campaign to fight the disease in children.
Earlier this year, Broward educators and others promised to
do something to stop the spread of AIDS. Today's theme is
Stop AIDS! Keep the Promise.
''It doesn't have to be something huge or complicated,''
said Jean Starkey, Broward's chairperson of the World AIDS
Day committee. ''Two of the most simple, powerful things
that one can do is get tested and use protection.'' The
ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m. at the Main Library,
includes performances by schoolchildren, a candlelight vigil
and free AIDS testing.
In Miami-Dade, more than 1,000 activists and health care
workers will meet at the Coconut Grove Convention Center for
a two-day conference about advances in treatment, clinical
trials and testing and prevention.
Some 400 Miami-Dade middle and high school students from
Liberty City, Overtown and Brownsville -- areas with the
county's highest HIV infection rates -- will be there.
During group rap sessions, students boast of engaging in
highly risky unprotected oral and anal sex, with the
mistaken belief that they are protected from the virus, said
Janet Robinson, a local AIDS educator and conference
co-chair. ''The kids told us they're having anal sex because
that means they're still a virgin,'' said Robinson. ``They
believe they're indestructible.''
Tonight, attendees will read aloud the names of more than
300 men, women and children in Miami-Dade who have died of
complications related to the virus.
State Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, will take an AIDS test
to serve as an encouragement to other women. Later today,
she and other local and state female elected officials will
speak out at a Miami Gardens symposium about early
Communities must talk about HIV and AIDS with children and
young adults, Wilson said.
Kuryla knows the value of open communication about AIDS.
She has told her story many times to schoolchildren.
Get tested regularly and stay clear of the risk factors. Not
just sex, but contact with others' blood, she stresses.
She contracted HIV from an ex-husband who she said knew he
was infected before they married in 1992. She found out
after a pregnancy test. She lost the baby three days later.
But she was in denial. She didn't live that ''lifestyle''
She had unprotected sex and got pregnant again with
Christian, who was born with HIV.
Doctors told her that Christian wasn't expected to live past
his fifth birthday.
He turned 9 in October.
''He is a miracle baby,'' Kuryla said.
She told him he had HIV about seven years ago. She wanted
his life to be as normal as possible.
''My responsibility was to love him enough to tell him,''
she said. ``He wants to be loved. He wants PlayStation and
Xbox. He wants the same things other kids want.''
More children born with HIV are living longer because of
advanced medication, she said.
Activists and advocates are coming together at a prickly
time in the fight. Broward AIDS cases per capita spiked 48
percent and Miami-Dade cases increased 29 percent between
2003 and 2004, according to a recent Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention report.
The numbers means the Greater Fort Lauderdale area leads the
nation in metropolitan areas for AIDS cases per capita.
Greater Miami is number two.
But the number of actual AIDS cases isn't rising, according
to Broward and state health officials. Aggressive testing,
referrals for medical follow up and enhanced laboratory
surveillance contributed to the increased numbers, they say.
But William Darrow, who works with an AIDS outreach program,
disputes that notion. The numbers are rising because of a
lack of resources, not increased testing, said Darrow,
project director for REACH 2010, an effort to reduce HIV
disparities in Broward's black communities.
''The fight seems to be going better everywhere except
here,'' said Darrow, whose REACH 2010 AIDS prevention
program lost $400,000 in federal funding this year.
``We have a more serious problem that has yet to be
CDC figures show that young people are hardest hit: Those
under 25 make up nearly half of all new HIV cases
nationwide, though they are only one-third of the
population. Children's Diagnostic and more than 10 community
groups hope a new youth center planned for Sistrunk
Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale will help in the battle.
In October, the North Broward Hospital District gave
Children's Diagnostic a $159,000 grant to operate the
center. It will provide health screenings for pregnancy,
HIV, medical treatment, mentoring and more for those in the
12 to 24 age range.
The aim is to make connections with young people and let
them know they have a place to turn to, said Marie Hayes,
director of the Comprehensive Family AIDS Program, one of
the services at Children's Diagnostic.
''Kids do well when they have that support,'' Hayes said.
``If we can affect change in this community, I think it can
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2005 Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights