HIV/AIDS infections an epidemic among African-Americans


Florida HIV infection rates have increased recently in two groups: gay and bisexual males, and African-American females. WMNF’s Josh Holton reports from today’s National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS conference at the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health.

A report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found that there have been about 50,000 new HIV infections in the country each year from 2006-2009, and that number has shown no signs of decreasing. Over the last four years infection rates have increased in young gay and bisexual men, driven by nearly a 50 percent increase among young African-Americans. The vice chair of Hillsborough County’s National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Mel Harris, says HIV is becoming an epidemic in Hillsborough County.

The CDC says although African-Americans only make up 12% of the U.S. population, they account for 44% of new infections. Reverend James Favorite is the Chair of the Hillsborough National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and said that Hillsborough County has one of the highest rates of new HIV and AIDS infections in the state.

AIDS is a big problem in the African community. And while many new infections have been attributed to risky sexual activity among gay and bisexual males, Favorite said a rising number of women and heterosexual couples are now among the infected.

According to Favorite even the national economy has had an impact on funding AIDS medicines.

And he says similar debates in Florida have threatened access to affordable AIDS drugs for low income patients.

The biggest challenge for many at the conference has been finding new ways to educate the public about AIDS. Diane Straub says that half of new HIV infections in the US occur in people under the age of 25. She works with the USF Department of Pediatrics, and also their Connect to Protect program which works to reduce HIV and AIDS rates among adolescents and young adults.

Collette Tomberlin works with the Care Council, which supports the West Central Florida Ryan White Care Council. She said that there have been thousands of new infections in the past two years.

Youth Education Services is also holding a video contest on their facebook page to raise awareness about HIV infections.

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