What can you say about a disease that is 100 percent preventable and yet, as of 2008, one in every 123 adult men in Florida was living with it? You can say the obvious: In the fight against HIV/AIDS, the time has come for men to "man up" and take responsibility for the consequences of their sexual actions and other risk behaviors.
The Florida Department of Health's new report, "The Crisis of HIV/AIDS Among Florida's Men," revealed that 72 percent of new HIV infections are among adult men. And, for the first time, new cases in white men now equal those in black men.
Overall, 1 in 209 white men, compared to 1 in 44 black men and 1 in 117 Hispanic men, is living with HIV/AIDS in Florida. The highest rate in any racial/ethnic group is in Miami-Dade County, where 1 in 29 black men is living with HIV/AIDS. Following close behind is Palm Beach County (1 in 31) and St. Lucie County (1 in 32).
The statistics can change. The year 2007 was the first time since 1999 that Florida observed a meaningful decline in HIV/AIDS deaths. Death rates among all racial/ethnic groups have decreased since 2006. The report showed that HIV/AIDS deaths decreased 11 percent among white men, 16 percent among black men and 15 percent among Hispanic men.
The single most important preventive measure is for people to know their HIV status. This knowledge not only helps individuals protect themselves and their partners, but also helps those who are infected to seek care and treatment.
There is a critical level of infection within Florida, and communities need to promote positive sexual behaviors rather than focusing blame on certain populations. Officials encourage regular HIV testing for all sexually active people, the use of condoms, and honesty when discussing with partners one's sexual history, preferences and HIV status.
The Florida HIV/AIDS hotline (1-800-FLA-AIDS) provides valuable HIV/AIDS-related information, community referrals, and supportive counseling. In addition, Florida residents can text their zip code to "477493" to find the nearest HIV testing site.
Ronald Henderson and Leisha McKinley-Beach work in the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of HIV/AIDS.
ON THE NET
To view the full report, visit www.WeMakeTheChange.com.