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St. Lucie Co. health officials: African-American men rank highest for new HIV cases

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 19:07:12-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla.  — Ten years ago, St. Lucie County ranked highest for new HIV cases in The Sunshine State. Today, health officials say while the rate has decreased by 18-percent there are still disparities to report.

The Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County says African-American men still rank the highest for new HIV cases and in an effort to decrease these numbers they are taking more testing to the streets.

At Joe’s Barbershop there’s a lot of guy talk. Unless you mention topics related to men’s health and HIV.

“I’m not even going there,” said Thomas Cornelius, a customer and Port St. Lucie resident. “Some people are really afraid to know. They would rather not know so they don’t get tested.”

A grim reality in a county now ranked 19th for new HIV cases. The highest rate amongst African-American men.

”It just all comes down to fear,” added Alvin Hamilton, a Port St. Lucie resident.

The Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County is aware of that fear. Out of four outreach HIV testings happening at places like public parks this week - approximately 30 people in the county were tested.

”The stigma is a large part of people being afraid to come to us,” said Cassandra Novalien Petit-Homme, Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County minority AIDS coordinator.

Petit-Homme says the health department believes there’s a culture war that needs to be tackled.

”There’s intersectionality at play like religion, or sense of support,” she said. “Some individuals are scared to get tested because of the what if. What if I’m positive? Will I have the support of my friends, my family or even my church.”

To break barriers, the health department now conducts up to 25 outreach testings per year in parks, outside grocery stores and barber shops. It’s a crisis the county is collaborating to tackle. Now recognized as the county with the largest decrease in HIV infections in the state, according to Kimberly Kossler, Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County Division Director, Disease Control and Health Protection.

In addition to outreach events, the Florida Department of Health in St Lucie County Sexually Transmitted Infections Program provides confidential HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia testing by appointment or walk-in services.

In St Lucie County Confidential HIV Testing is offered at:

Florida Department of Health in St Lucie County 714 Avenue C, Fort Pierce (772) 462-3819 & 5150 NW Milner Drive, Port St Lucie (772) 462-3800

In The Image of Christ 707 N. 7th Street, Fort Pierce (772) 461-7788

Whole Family Health Center 725 N. US1, Fort Pierce (772) 468-9900

Care Net Pregnancy of the Treasure Coast 8432 S. Federal Hwy, Port Saint Lucie (772) 871-2211

Midway Specialty Care Center 356 E. Midway Rd, Port Saint Lucie (772) 464-9746