Florida health officials this week announced that the rate of new HIV infections in Palm Beach County, Fla., rose a surprising 44% last year, with rates also up 30% in Broward County and 18% in Miami-Dade County, reports the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The new numbers show that HIV infections rose for the second consecutive year, although the 2001 increase was just slightly above 2000 infection levels. Health officials say the rise is due to an increasingly "cavalier" attitude among gay men in the region regarding safer sex. They also said that HIV prevention messages are not working because there are several distinct infection epicenters, each one with a different cultural makeup.
"You have a complex epicenter of cases [with] men who have sex with men, injection-drug users, heterosexuals, and foreign-born people," said Tom Liberti, AIDS director at the state health department. "Each of those has different needs. One single approach does not work."
All three Florida counties reported record high numbers of new infections--1,765 in Miami-Dade County, 1,086 in Broward County, and 519 in Palm Beach County. The number of new AIDS cases also was up in the region, rising 12% in Palm Beach County and 8.5% in Broward County.