HIV in Florida

Florida Supreme Court Ruling Defines ‘Sexual Intercourse’

Mar 20, 2017
STEVEN MARTIN / flickr

In a case stemming from a law that requires HIV-infected people to inform potential sexual partners about the disease, the Florida Supreme Court this week said a legal definition of "sexual intercourse" goes beyond relations between men and women.

South Florida has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new HIV cases.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the South Florida metro area as number one for HIV diagnoses in 2015.

Fighting HIV In Miami, One Dirty Needle At A Time

Aug 10, 2016

The doctor on a mission met the homeless heroin addict who lived under a tree last year at Jackson Health System’s special immunology clinic when both men were struggling to overcome the odds.

Jose De Lemos, infected with HIV and hepatitis C from a shared needle, had gone without treatment for almost a year. He’d dropped 80 pounds, suffered from night sweats and a rash on his leg and chest. Even walking hurt.

He was in no mood for conversation with a well-meaning doc.

Alicia Zuckerman / WLRN

Dance Now Miami performs Edward Stierle's "Lacrymosa," Thursday, May 19th through Sunday, May 21st at the Fillmore Miami Beach. The ballet was a response to the 1980 AIDS crisis and stands as its creator's own requiem. 

People told Edward Stierle he was too short for ballet. He was around 5'6" or 5'8", depending on who you ask. He'd been dancing tap and jazz since he was four or five years old, with his big sister Rosemarie teaching his first classes. But he had a calling for ballet. 

Ben Kushner

For a while in the late 1980s, Jeff Schmalz was the Miami bureau chief for the New York Times. That was before he was completely out of the closet, and Miami was one of the places in the country where he felt comfortable as a gay man.

For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down.

One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder.

He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work.

“I see it as being an AIDS ministry,” he said.

Charles Williams is sitting at a table with two of the young men he mentors. They get together at least twice a week.

On this day, they’re talking about sex. More specifically,  about protection.

“In the heat of the moment sometimes, a guy doesn't necessarily reach for a condom,” Williams tells Dwayne Jackson, 14, and Traivon Harris, 15. 

The boys get bashful and chuckle at William’s blunt delivery.

Abe Aboraya / Health News Florida

Will Blair can describe his family in three words: southern, conservative, Baptist. 

“I’m kind of the black sheep,” he said.

Blair was 17 and living in rural Lake County when he came out as gay to the grandparents raising him.

Last year, at 32, he had to come out a second time: as HIV positive.

“It’s hard dealing with letting the people close to you know,” Blair said. “Because some people, even the ones close to you, even though they’re talking to you and you hear the words coming out their mouth, you know that behind what they’re saying is judgment.”

Poison Ivy came out as a transgender woman to her family in January.

Her grandmother kicked her out of the house. 

“She didn’t want to see me transitioning,” said Poison Ivy, who asked that her real name not be used. “It’s just so hard for her to notice that her grandson, someone that has loved her for a long time is becoming a woman.”

So Poison Ivy moved in with friends. Some of them don’t know what the 18-year-old does for a living.

Each year in Jacksonville, a nonprofit called JASMYN hosts a prom for LGBT youth.

Kourtnee Armanii Davinnie was crowned this year’s prom queen. She’s scared of horses, but loves unicorns. And she sometimes snaps when she talks.

Davinnie holds up a selfie taken in one of her multiple prom dresses.

If you're talking about older people and sex, you have to talk to Kate GeMeiner.

"I'm also known as Doctor Truth, the Condom Lady," the 85-year-old says.

GeMeiner lives in Broward County, and spends a lot of her time at senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Everyone thinks HIV happens to someone else.

It only infects men who are having sex with men, they say. Or HIV drug users.

And while that still accounts for about half of all people infected, those who are being diagnosed with this serious sexually transmitted disease don’t fall into simple categories. They’re young and old, straight, gay and transgender, of every race.