HIV Agencies Put Heads Together at HIP Meeting

HIV/AIDS service agencies presented their plans and debated methods at a High Impact Prevention meeting Thursday, June 25, at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.

In the fourth of a series of 10 HIP (High Impact Prevention) meetings held around the state, discussions became heated at times as health care providers deal with the large number of people living with HIV/AIDS in South Florida. Health officials report there are 125,447 Floridians living with HIV/AIDS and 84 percent of the infected population is diagnosed with the disease. Alarmingly, only 45 percent have achieved viral suppression.

“We have a lot of data and we need to start using it and pinpointing problems,” said Mara Michniewicz, the State’s prevention program manager for the HIV/AIDS section and bureau of communicable diseases.

Representatives from the State, Broward County, Broward House, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Care Resources, Latino Salud, SunServe and Pride Center all presented information on the services they offer.

“We have a lot of things converging,” said Michniewicz, who moderated the meeting. “Our CDC grant ends in 2016 so we have to get out in front of this.”

Some of comments included how to target at risk populations. Christopher Bates, who works with MSM (men who have sex with men) in the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s HIP program, said door-to-door outreach is a “poor choice of resources.”

Thomas Soto, Vice President of Broward House, said health fairs have not been effective in reaching at-risk populations. Soto, under questioning from the audience, admitted the mobile app Grindr is effective in reaching young people.

The meeting went on for more than three hours and saw arguments between participants as to the State’s role in fighting HIV/AIDS.

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