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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Hispanic Group's Aim: AIDS Awareness
Rosa Mae Neel
September 14, 2001
Miami Herald (09.13.01) - Friday, September 14, 2001

In the battle against AIDS, many say that Hispanic voices have been too quiet, even as statistics show that Hispanics are contracting HIV at a rapid rate. Union Positiva, founded four years ago, is the first organization in South Florida dedicated to helping Spanish speakers prevent and treat AIDS. Its founders' original goal was to pass along AIDS prevention information to Latin America. But the nonprofit organization now focuses on home, offering anonymous testing and counseling, prevention education, street outreach, treatment education and referrals in South Florida.

While gay and African-American communities demanded to be heard by the government years ago, Hispanics have avoided the topic of AIDS, said Dr. Eddie Sollie, a spokesperson for the organization. "Our community doesn't like to talk about sex," Sollie said. "It's a taboo that we have to break, because the AIDS virus doesn't make any exceptions." But now that activist Luis Penelas Jr., brother of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, has joined Union Positiva as its political advisor, the group may be knocking at politicians' doors more often. "What I encounter the most is ignorance and very genuine concern, but the response is almost always positive," said Penelas, who has spoken on about a dozen radio shows since joining the group.

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