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Empower “U” gets $700K grant to expand health care in Liberty City

But HIV/AIDS and health disparities among Blacks continue to be at top of list

D. Kevin McNeir | 11/28/2013, 9 a.m.
For over a decade, Empower “U,” Inc. a not-for-profit, minority peer-based AIDS service organization, founded by people living with HIV/AIDS, ...
“Youth have this false notion that HIV is something to play with because of the new meds that allow people to live much longer as a chronic illness,” she said. “But being HIV-positive is not a walk in the park. And there are ways to avoid it — always use a condom and get tested regularly. Why do people keep refusing to take these simple steps?” Photo by Miami Times Illustration

The new offices, 9,400 square feet in total, are located at 7900 NW 27th Avenue, Suite E1200, next to the Department of Motor Vehicles and their doors are already open. Director of Administration, Christine Stroy-Martin, says they anticipate servicing new clients as part of the grant’s requirements by mid-January. Staff will increase from 40 full and part time employees to at least 11 additional workers. And they’re looking for interested parties to join their board of directors — 51 percent of whom must be clients.

The impact of AIDS continues

The good news for Empower “U” not withstanding, this Sunday will be mark a somber moment for many across the globe as we recognize the 25th year since the World Health Organization and the United Nations first declared December 1st as World AIDS Day, a day when “people worldwide . . . unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and . . . commemorate people who have died.”

In Miami-Dade County, Blacks represent 19 percent of the population, but in 2011 accounted for 41 percent of new infections, 47 percent of people living with HIV and 52 percent of new AIDS diagnoses (M-DCHD). About 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year — 1-in-4 is between 13 and 24 years old. Youth make up 7 percent of the more than 1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS. About 12,000 youth were infected with HIV in 2010 — the greatest percentage being among gay and bisexual youth. And nearly half of all new infections were among Black males. Mills reminds us that testing and protection are paramount, especially for youth.

“They have this false notion that HIV is something to play with because of the new meds that allow people to live much longer as a chronic illness,” she said. “But no one should want to become HIV-positive because it is not a walk in the park. And there are ways to avoid it — always use a condom and get tested regularly. Why do people keep refusing to take these simple steps?”