Broward County Unveils New HIV Prevention Plan

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Donna Sabatino, Broward County HIV Prevention Planning CouncilCo-Chair

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Feb.7, 2013, marked one of the first public presentations of Broward County’s new HIV prevention plan.

“The focus is to increase HIV prevention in communities hardest hit, expand effective combinations of evidenced based prevention approaches,” said Donna Sabatino, Broward County HIV Prevention Planning Council Co-Chair, “And to educate all Americans about HIV and how to prevent infection.”

High Impact Prevention (HIP) forms the core of the new plan, consisting of prevention for HIV-positive people, condom distribution, increased HIV testing, social marketing, and structural initiatives to align policies with HIV strategies.

“The components of HIP are dependent on effectiveness and cost, full scale implementation and coverage,” Sabatino said.

While previous prevention efforts emphasized HIV-negative people remaining HIV-negative, prevention for HIV-positive people focuses on linking HIV-positive people to treatment to achieve an undetectable viral load. Unfortunately, about 20 percent of HIV-infected people think they are still uninfected, and only about 28 percent of HIV-infected people have achieved an undetectable viral load.

In 2011, the Broward County Health Department began a series of meetings with HIV prevention and treatment providers.  These meetings resulted in Broward’s local plan, the “Jurisdictional Prevention Plan 2012-:  Defining HIV Planning through Our Eyes.”  While this is a public document, it was not available online as of press time.

This new plan creates a twenty-one member Broward County HIV Prevention Planning Council (BCHPPC), the overall planning body, with three teams and four workgroups.  While the teams are appointed, the work groups are open to the public.

The three teams are the Epidemiology and Research Team, the High Impact Prevention Team, and the Policy Team. The work groups focus on the four major target groups: Blacks, Latinos, MSM of all races, and Transgender people. These work groups provide a link between the communities and prevention planning.

If you’re interested in joining one of these work groups:  Call Donna Markland at 954-467-4700 Ext, ext. 5600 to join the Black Advisory Group; Call Evelyn Morales at 954-467-4700 ext. 5705 to join the Latino group; Call John Daily at 954-467-4700, ext. 5528 to join the MSM Advisory Group. To join the Transgender Advisory Group, Call 954-467-4700 and ask the operator for the Trans coordinator.

The plan acknowledges all the work groups and lists their members with one exception: The MSM Advisory Group. The According to the Prevention Plan gay/bi men did participate in its writing but as individuals or groups.

Joey Wynn, Co-Chair of the Florida HIV Advocacy Network, has criticism of both the plan and the process to develop it.

“The Broward County Health Department’s HIV Prevention Program has been working on this plan for the past two years; and only recently hired a gay man to work on this plan,” he said. “It is time for gay men to get back to our advocacy roots; HIV is still a HUGE issue for gay men, especially in South Florida.”

Broward County’s new HIV prevention plan represents a great deal of work by people working with limited resources and time constraints, but all plans have flaws and can be improved. HIV prevention looms large in the political agenda of gay/bi and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), who form about 67 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS in Broward.  People from the target communities should read the full plan, discuss it, and give feedback.

Target populations can also be citizens and empowered agents of their own destiny.