Florida has had its challenges with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. Most recently there have been struggles to meet the needs of HIV-positive individuals on the Florida ADAP list, and a restructuring of the State Bureau of HIV. And, well, the rates of HIV infection speak for themselves. But today we can say that we are being heard! Let’s hear it for Florida leadership on HIV, thanks to Congressman Hastings!
On Thursday, July 26, Congressman Alcee Hastings of South Florida put together the Democratic Florida Delegation Meeting on HIV/AIDS, and other states have done the same. This has been an excellent companion to the XIX International AIDS Conference, working toward an AIDS-free generation in Florida and other states. What is at stake? This was an opportunity to inform policy makers about addressing HIV/AIDS from different angles, including micro and macro level strategies. Florida is not alone in the fight against the epidemic, but we are unique in how we get the work done, and we spoke up! From outlining the epidemic in the African American community, to its emergence in immigrant communities, we were heard. From the linking of risk factors such as immigration detention to criminalization of positives, we were heard.
So, recognition is due to Congressman Alcee Hastings for bringing together state leaders such as Congressional Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Representative Ted Deutch and Representative Frederica Wilson who came out to hear from national, state and local experts on HIV/AIDS in Florida. Sometimes you just need to speak up!
Fran Ricardo is the Director of Development of the Rural Women’s Health Project. She was a presenter and participant of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Dc this past week. She is program coordinator of the RWHP’s “Let’s Talk About It” peer positive women’s program in North Central Florida- in collaboration with WellFlorida, Inc.