FIU Stempel College students join Dean Guilarte for HIV/AIDS Task Force meeting

Miami-Dade County leads the nation in new HIV infections. Only 65 percent of those infected receive regular medical care, and one HIV-positive person can potentially infect more than 1,000 people in three years if undiagnosed or untreated.

hiv-taskTo address this situation, Miami-Dade County officials recently launched the HIV/AIDS “Getting to Zero” Task Force and appointed several community leaders to it, including FIU Stempel College Dean Tomas Guilarte.

During the December 9 Task Force meeting, Dr. William Darrow (back row center) and eight members of his Health Promotion Program Planning and Intervention Design class joined Dean Guilarte.

These students (from left to right: Taylor Campbell, Diana Moron, Estefania Ruano, Keilah Schmidt, Vanessa Rojas, Melissa Hernandez, Latisha Gonzalez, and Mariel Gutierrez) and 17 others studied HIV-prevention programs in four cities during fall 2016 and presented their findings during World AIDS Day activities at the FIU MMC campus on December 1, 2016. “Letty” Gonzalez represented Team Miami and talked about what might be done to improve the situation in Miami Dade County, which, according to WLRN and Miami Herald reports last week was once again number 1 in the nation in rates of newly diagnosed HIV infections.

Dean Guilarte, as a member of the Mayor’s Task Force, suggested to Senator Rene Garcia and the other 29 members that interventions designed to reduce new infections in Miami be accompanied by independent evaluations of their effectiveness. Professor Darrow, as a subject matter expert, cautioned that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was not the best solution for everyone in Miami and asked the Task Force to give equal consideration to alternative interventions that have also been shown to be effective in preventing HIV transmissions in various populations.

FIU Stempel College graduate students made a number of insightful observations about the recommendations that were rated “highest priority” and wondered why more attention was not devoted by Task Force committees to mental health issues and other barriers standing in the way of progress in south Florida. Effective health education about HIV prevention using an appropriate blend of traditional and social media is critically needed in our diverse communities to influence populations at risk.

The final set recommendations will be reviewed by the Task Force on January 20, 2017. Once approved, a final action plan will be presented to Mayor Carlos Gimenez for implementation.

Author: Gus Ruiz

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