As the number of new AIDS cases increased in both Florida and the nation, health officials and advocates meeting in Miami were told Monday to find new messages for capturing the U.S. public's attention about HIV/AIDS. As HIV spreads to diverse populations, the safe sex awareness and education campaigns that were used 20 years ago no longer work, said Mervyn Silverman, chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, which is holding the Miami gathering through Wednesday.
"If you look at the numbers," Silverman said, "the answer is 'No, they aren't effective.' But the numbers might be worse if you didn't have some of the education programs," he said. The advertisements of the 1980s were designed to reach a primarily white, gay male audience. "We have to tailor the message to the group, whether it's street kids or people over 50," he said. "We have to crawl into the heads of people to find out how we can get the message out, get it heard and internalized."
That task falls largely upon health care providers, governments and community-based agencies that deal with HIV/AIDS prevention. Since the late 1990s, Florida has geared its message to blacks and Hispanics, but that tactic needs to expand nationwide, said Silverman.
Organizers chose Miami as a host site because South Florida has one of the highest AIDS rates in the country. Last year, Florida had 12 percent of the nation's newly reported cases, and ranked second in the number of female and pediatric AIDS cases. Tom Liberti, director of the Florida Bureau of HIV/AIDS, noted that silence, complacency and political inaction have blunted the urgency about the disease. The amfAR conference brings together more than 2,000 physicians, nurses, mental health specialists and AIDS care advocates from across the United States and the Caribbean.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network.
It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.