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FLORIDA: "HIV Rate in Blacks Drops, but Still High"
  Miami Herald
June 18, 2005
Fred Tasker
Though African Americans, who account for just 14 percent of Florida's population, comprise 51 percent of its new HIV cases, new HIV diagnoses among blacks have dropped significantly since 1999, state Secretary of Health Dr. John O. Agwunobi announced Friday.
Since 1999, new diagnoses decreased by 24 percent among black men and 36 percent among black women, said Agwunobi. The secretary cited aggressive and rapid testing programs for recently extending their reach. "It's not the time to celebrate, but it's definitely time to recognize that what we're doing is hitting home," he said.
"We're doing HIV testing in medical facilities, in jails, in mobile vans, at pharmacies, with teams of public health officials and community-based organizations," said Thomas Liberti, chief of the HIV/AIDS bureau in the state Department of Health.
In the past, black women accounted for 82 percent of mother-to-child HIV transmissions. According to Agwunobi, lower HIV rates among black women, together with new drugs, contributed to an 84 percent decrease in such transmissions since 1999. There have been no mother-to-child HIV transmissions in Florida in the first half of 2005, Agwunobi said.
Florida has posted increases in HIV diagnoses among white men who have sex with men (MSM), said Liberti.
The state's data are "proof that we can do incredible things when we can focus the state's finances and energy on a problem," said Kevin Garrity, executive director of South Beach AIDS Project. "I only wish we could get the same focus on the problem of white MSM and crystal meth."
Agwunobi urged residents to find out their HIV status by participating in National HIV Testing Day on June 27.
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