The director of the Glades Health Initiative in Belle Glade is in Toronto this week at the International Aids Conference. Twenty years ago this rural community in western Palm Beach County had an AIDS infection rate reportedly fifty times greater than the national average. What’s it like today?
At first researchers thought mosquitoes might be spreading AIDS in Belle Glade. That theory was disproved. The culprit was instead a culture of poverty and related drug use combined with a large migrant population and flawed statistics gathering. Today the number of AIDS cases in Belle Glade is close to that in other depressed communities in Florida. Zunilda Jackson is an HIV Counselor at the Glades Health Initiative in Belle Glade.
“the highest hiv population we have unfortunately is among African Americans –and unfortunately it’s a young community – a tender age community – and I attribute to the high number of younger people taking drugs”
But although the number of AIDS cases in Belle Glade is inline with statewide statistics – the overall percentage in Florida is up considerably since 1985.
Twenty-one years ago scientists from the Centers for Disease Control set up shop in Belle Glade to try to find out why the number of AIDS cases turning up was 50 greater than the national average. They suspected mosquitoes spread the virus – but years of research proved otherwise. Today, as AIDS researchers from around the world meet in Toronto – work continues on the ground in Belle Glade to halt the spread of HIV. Counselor Zunilda Jackson says substance abuse and a culture of poverty are the primary culprits in the disease’s spread.
“a lot of times they get into drugs or alcohol and their mind is totally compromised – to the point where they don’t know what they’re doing and if they’re doing it right or wrong”.
Jackson says flawed statistical gathering in the 1980’s led to the high number of AIDS cases reported in Belle Glade. She says today most new cases are reported among the African-American community – and that many of infected are very young.
Monday, 14 August 2006 01:00
AIDSWritten by WGCU Newsroom