On World AIDS Day, activists urge awareness

Palm Beach Post (FL)
Copyright © 2011 Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
WILLIE HOWARD Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Outreach workers challenged residents to test their knowledge about AIDS and distributed information about preventing the disease Thursday during a World AIDS Day event at the Tropical Food Market on Lake Avenue.

Organized by the Comprehensive AIDS Program of Palm Beach County, the event targeting Hispanic residents was named the Friendship Festival because “a condom is your best friend against HIV infection,” said Herminia Mercedes, an outreach worker for CAP.

Free mouth-swab tests for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were offered nearby at the Guatemalan-Maya Center on North F Street.

”It’s about awareness,” said Jennifer Basing of MAC Cosmetics, who was stationed at the outreach booth with five other makeup artists to promote her company’s Viva Glam lipstick, sales of which benefit the MAC AIDS Fund. “Testing is so important.”

As the AIDS workers talked, men dressed in jeans and work shirts sat on the curb outside the market. Eventually, a few of them wandered over to the booth to discuss HIV/AIDS. One quiz in Spanish sought to correct misconceptions about AIDS, including the myth that it affects only gays.

The AIDS-prevention program targets Hispanics in Lake Worth year-round by using cabdrivers based at the Tropical Food Market to distribute safe-sex kits that include condoms and information on where to find free HIV testing. Golden Cab driver Pedro Garcia said he distributes about 20 safe-sex kits every weekend.

”This community needs it,” said Tropical Food Market manager Sayed Harun. “They need to be educated.”

About 4,500 people living in Palm Beach County have AIDS, and another 3,389 had tested positive for HIV as of Oct. 31, state health records show.

The Friendship Festival in Lake Worth was one of several AIDS awareness programs planned throughout Palm Beach County during World AIDS Day Thursday. A ceremony to dedicate the opening of an AIDS quilt was held at the Compass Community Center, and several AIDS-prevention agencies set up shop at Clematis by Night in downtown West Palm Beach.