This sounds more like a vacation than a work assignment: Walk around Broward County beaches for seven days, chatting with young adult beachgoers about sex and making the rounds at bars, restaurants and shops.
In reality, the third annual Beach Blitz was one of the year’s major HIV prevention and education efforts by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County (DOH-Broward) and six of its community partner agencies.
Dozens of staffers and volunteers from the organizations distributed an estimated 50,000 condoms and conducted HIV prevention surveys with 484 people who were out on the beaches during their Spring Break vacations or days off. Mobile units administered on-the-spot HIV tests.
“It’s very important for us to be out there talking to people about taking steps to prevent transmission of HIV,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward.
The campaign, devised by a countywide HIV prevention committee, was recognized last year by the National Association of County and City Health Officials as a “model practice,” meaning other areas could consider copying it. This year’s campaign went smoothly and achieved all the goals the organizers had hoped.
“Broward Beach Blitz is a strong initiative that works to increase condom distribution, community engagement and inter-agency collaboration,” says co-organizer Emilio Apontesierra Paretti, Human Services Program Consultant at DOH-Broward.
The survey is a key component of the project. Prevention specialists ask beachgoers about their attitudes toward HIV and what steps they take to prevent it. In addition to gathering data, the survey opens the door for conversations so survey-takers can share information about prevention.
This year, the conversation included information about getting an HIV test routinely at every medical visit and about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), the practice of at-risk people taking a daily HIV pill to prevent transmission of the virus.
Partner agencies this year included TransSocial, Henderson Behavioral Health, Pride Center, Arianna’s Center, Broward House and Latinos Salud.
Above content provided by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County