OAKLAND PARK (CBS4) – On the eve of “World AIDS Day” there is some sobering news for South Florida.

So far this year, Fort Lauderdale has the highest rate of new HIV cases in the country.  Miami comes in third place.

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At the same time, there is encouraging news when it comes to treatment.  Just ask Brad Marema from Oakland Park.

“I knew I was dead,” said Brad after learning in 2003 that he was HIV positive.  “I had already accepted it. I had already come to peace with it.”  From the day he was diagnosed, his life and health spiraled downward because of alcohol, drug abuse and living recklessly.

He became so sick – he nearly died.   “I went down to three T-cells,” recalls Marema.  “I had pcp pneumonia, which is pneumocystis pneumonia twice.  I had MRSA in my lungs, I had it in my blood stream.”

Brad also had Hepatitis B and C, his partner died and he lost his home. What saved Brad’s life is he made a call for help to Broward House, an HIV/AIDS assistance organization.

“They left a message on my phone, it was like, it was incredible,” Marema said.   “They got me medication, they housed me, they fed me.”

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Now Brad is taking lifesaving medication, he’s happy, healthy and sober.  He’s studying to be a vet tech.

Dr. Sheetal Sharma is with Broward House and Broward Healthcare.

“Thirty years ago, it was like a death sentence,” said Dr. Sharma.

He says a lot has changed over the years, allowing people to live healthy, long lives.

“HIV is a chronic, manageable disease,” he said.  “The key is for every sexual active person to be tested at least twice a year and don’t be scared.  There is hope, there is treatment.”

Tomorrow on World AIDS Day, there are going to be testing sites set up all over South Florida. Testing will be held at the following “Out of the Closet” locations.

  • Wilton Manors
    2097 Wilton Drive
    Wilton Manors, FL 33305
    10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Miami
    2900 N. Biscayne Blvd.
    Miami, FL 33137
    10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • South Beach
    1510 Alton Rd.
    Miami Beach, FL 33139
    10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Ft. Lauderdale
    1785 Sunrise Blvd.
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
    10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Delevoe Park
    2520 NW 6th Street
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
    9:00 am – 5:00 pm

A candlelight vigil will also be held in Wilton Manors. Click Here for more information.

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Actress/comedienne Margaret Cho will lead the walk and later host a benefit show.  Click Here for more information.

Ted Scouten