An Anti-AIDS Blitz
Local groups innovate to expand the number getting tested.
In Duval County, Avery Garner uses cyberspace to promote HIV testing among a hard-to-reach group.
In his State of the Union address a year ago, President Bush called for a nationwide effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis. Part of Bush's message mentioned "working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions."
In Florida, where one in every 58 black men is infected with HIV/AIDS, healthcare professionals, churches and other community organizations have responded with innovative intervention efforts.
Avery Garner, prevention coordinator for the Duval County Health Department's AIDS program office, is using the internet to reach an elusive, high-risk population of black and Hispanic men who have sex with men, but don't necessarily consider themselves gay. Many men who have sex with men, or MSMs, are married or involved with women. Because they don't identify with the gay community, prevention efforts that target gay bars and other gay social hubs aren't likely to reach them.
Garner uses cyberspace, posting prevention messages under the screen name "Free HIV Test" on various chat rooms like AOL's Jacksonville, Fl, M4M. His informational website has gotten almost 2,000 hits.
Meanwhile, a 3-year-old program in Broward County aimed at the female partners of incarcerated men has also shown promise. Approximately 20% of the 1,600 women who were briefed on HIV-related topics as they awaited entry for visiting hours at the jail sought HIV counseling and testing. As a result, more incarcerated men encouraged by their partners are also getting tested while in jail.
As part of an aggressive effort to tackle HIV/AIDs rates in Miami-Dade County, where one in every 44 African-Americans has HIV/AIDS, Jackson Memorial Hospital last April began giving routine rapid HIV tests to all emergency room patients. A $100,000 grant from Gilead Sciences is paying the staff salaries for the full-time HIV counselors who are on site to help administer the program. The rapid testing kits have been provided by the Department of Health.