South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (12.29.11) -
For a decade, Broward County has had one of the nation's
highest rates of new HIV infections per capita. There, the
virus is spreading mainly among men who have sex with men and
young-to-middle-age black adults engaging in unprotected sex.
To slow the epidemic, CDC has enlisted the Broward Health
Department to help educate area health care providers on the
need to routinely offer HIV testing to patients. Several
million dollars in new grants are supporting the effort.
"Everybody has become complacent, even the doctors," said
Cynthia Peterson, executive vice president for the Broward
County Medical Association (BCMA). Doctors are being urged to
address the topics of sex and HIV during patient checkups.
Routine HIV testing can help find the estimated 20 percent of
those who do not know they are infected, experts say.
But misperceptions about HIV remain entrenched for some. "When
I ask someone to let me do an HIV test, they immediately say,
'Why, do you think I'm doing something? I'm clean. I'm
married. I'm not gay.' There is still a lot of stigma," said
Kutty Chandran, BCMA president and a family care provider in
Coral Springs. "People get defensive."
"People don't use protection because they think they can't get
HIV if they are straight or married," said Audrey Clarke, a
Holy Cross Hospital outreach coordinator who conducts
screenings at churches and other locations. "I tell them, 'Are
you sure about your partner?' I say we should not just blindly
trust our partner and whoever they [had sex] with. That means