Since 1988, there has been an international health observance on Dec. 1 to unite us all in the continuous fight against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the disease that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). On both a global and local level, it should be the one day we bond as a community to show support for those living with the disease and to remember those who died.
One day a year?
With alarming statistics continuing to affect Miami-Dade County (and Broward, as well), so much more than one day is needed.
With all the issues that challenge South Florida, why should our local school district policy makers, educators and parents be concerned about HIV/AIDS?
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While Miami has unique characteristics that allow it to be a famously innovative city, it holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the nation, at a rate of 51.2 per 100,000 individuals.
In Miami-Dade County during 2015, there were 1,368 reported diagnoses of HIV, of which 15.3 percent (210 people) were in the age group of 13 to 24 years. As of 2014, it was estimated that only 41 percent of HIV-infected youth in the United States were aware of their diagnosis, suggesting the epidemic is severely underestimated.
Miami-Dade County does more HIV testing than any other place in the country, but unless as a community we all get on board, we will continue to hold this remarkable (and sad) distinction of being No. 1 in the nation for HIV infection rate — with Broward County at No. 2.
Despite overwhelming demand, the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine continues to work for its patients and its community. With limited funding, we strive to educate, test, link and treat all adolescents potentially affected by HIV. Please visit our website at www.promote2prevent.org for information about our HIV testing and treatment services and other resources. You can also call us at 305-243-2174 to make an appointment.
This year for World AIDS Day, we will not be solely involved in events such as premiering an educational film, speaking at the mayor of Miami’s sanctioned event, or doing special projects with the Florida Department of Health or Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Instead, we are focused on each day, in a sense, being World AIDS Day.
Educators, leaders, students and parents: Please join in this fight to reduce these HIV case rates. Talk to your children, get involved in policy changes, support educational and health care agencies, do what you can — but please, not just on Dec. 1, but every day of the year. We really, really need you!
Alex Moreno, MPH, is clinical program manager in the Department of Pediatrics’ Division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.