Churches combating HIV in south St. Pete

Dear Editor:

There is a serial killer among our community, and its name is “stigma.” The latest HIV statistics paint a grim picture for African-American communities in much of the country, with Pinellas County identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as extremely high-risk.

Our good friends at Metro Inclusive Health brought the threat of this epidemic to the attention of myself and other south side community leaders, including Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin at a recent small HIV summit. National, state and local statistics were presented that were nothing short of alarming, and we all need to be made aware.

The south side of St. Petersburg and the black community is the hardest hit in Pinellas County, and the numbers are staggering. The CDC estimates that one in two black men who have sex with other men but may not identify themselves as homosexual are likely to contract HIV compared to one in 11 white males.

Even more alarming is the Florida Department of Health statistics stating that 63 percent of Pinellas County HIV diagnosed females over 50 years of age were African American. Fifty-six percent of people living with an HIV diagnosis in Pinellas were older adults (50 plus). On the south side, 77 percent of older adults who received an HIV diagnosis were ages 50-59.

Blacks represented the highest proportion of persons who received an HIV diagnosis in Florida at 42 percent, with Hispanics at 31 percent and whites at 25 percent.

Dr. G. Gregg Murray
Pastor, Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church

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