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HIV battle becomes personal for Walgreens manager in Tampa's College Hill neighborhood

Doug Boyd runs a Walgreens in a Tampa neighborhood where HIV is a particular concern. He is hosting HIV screening Monday in the parking lot at 2115 E Hillsborough Ave.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Doug Boyd runs a Walgreens in a Tampa neighborhood where HIV is a particular concern. He is hosting HIV screening Monday in the parking lot at 2115 E Hillsborough Ave.

TAMPA — In Florida, as in much of the United States, HIV is spreading fastest not among gay males, but among black families. Yet a May summit for pastors in parts of Tampa where HIV infections are plaguing black communities was only lightly attended.

Conspicuously present at that and other community meetings on HIV/AIDS was a white drugstore manager.

Doug Boyd runs the Walgreens at 2115 E Hillsborough Ave. in College Hill, one of Tampa's worst-hit neighborhoods. It's for them he's turning over his parking lot on Monday to National HIV Testing Days.

All Walgreens stores offer HIV awareness and care, but Boyd started to see how many affected families come into his store for quarts of milk, birthday cards — and HIV meds.

They are a relatively small proportion of his customers, and Boyd says they look like everyone else, mostly moms, dads and kids. But they are the faces of shocking statistics: 90,000 Floridians have HIV/AIDS, nearly twice the national rate. One-fourth aren't receiving treatment. One-fifth of those who have HIV don't know it, according to health statistics.

HIV, detected early and properly treated, is not the death sentence it once was. Overall, new infections have declined. But it still results in the death of about 400 black women in Florida each year, most of whom are infected by men. That's more than the total number of white men and women who die because of AIDS. And the death rate among black men is almost seven times higher than among white men.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many and complex, but one that Boyd hopes to help address is that black Americans generally have less access to health care than whites.

Boyd saw the epidemic's impact when he started managing the E Hillsborough Avenue store two years ago.

"It became personal," he says.

Walgreens has designated some pharmacies in hard-hit areas like Boyd's as HIV "specialty stores." The chain assigned Ngozi Benyard, a doctor of pharmacy, to supervise its prevention effort in Tampa. Pharmacy staffs in those stores get extra training in HIV care. They offer counseling and keep track of customers' dosages, since consistency is vital to HIV therapies' success.

"Above all," Boyd said, "we want to make sure they don't miss one dose."

Boyd went further. He joined the Tampa Bay Community Events Partnership and linked up with Andrew Maldonado, the regional minority AIDS coordinator for the Hillsborough County Health Department. Boyd also attended meetings of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of Tampa Bay.

His involvement has given HIV prevention workers new access to a hidden population.

"They don't come to USF," said Michelle McKinney, an infectious diseases researcher for the University of South Florida. "But they go to their drugstores."

John Barry can be reached at jbarry@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay area events for

National HIV Testing Days

Friday

• The Hillsborough County Health Department will offer free screenings at 1105 E Kennedy Blvd., 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• In Pinellas County, the Health Department will offer free HIV testing on Friday and Monday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its five health centers: Tarpon Springs Center, 301 S Disston Ave.; Clearwater Center, 310 N Myrtle Ave.; Largo Center, 12420 130th Ave.; Pinellas Park Center, 6350 76th Ave. N; and St. Petersburg Center, 205 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.

Saturday

• The Pinellas County Health Department will offer free HIV testing and prevention education during the St. Petersburg Pride Festival, on Central Avenue between 31st and 22nd streets in St. Petersburg.

Also at the festival, testing will be available at an ASAP mobile unit, 11 a.m to 4 p.m.; Metro Thrift Store, 2235 Central Ave., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Flamingo Resort, 4601 34th St. S, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Outreach staff will provide condoms and prevention education. ASAP will also offer testing, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at 4601 34th St. S.

• Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan Inc., 712 W Ross Ave., Tampa, will hold a health fair with free screenings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Monday

• Walgreens at 2115 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, will host free screenings for HIV and other STDs, plus glucose, cholesterol, pregnancy and blood pressure tests, 3 to 7 p.m. The store will also provide free refreshments and music.

USF gets major grant for AIDS education

TAMPA — The University of South Florida Center for HIV Education and Research received a $16 million federal grant this week to lead a multi-university effort to combat the disease by training health care providers in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Michael D. Knox, director of the center, said the five-year grant will improve care for patients throughout this region. "Treatment of HIV/AIDS is complex, and frequent developments in medical guidelines, as well as new drugs, require clinicians to receive continuous education,'' said Knox. The other universities in the program are Florida A&M University, University of Florida, University of Miami, University of Puerto Rico and University of the Virgin Islands. AIDS rates in Florida and Puerto Rico are almost twice the U.S. rate; rates in the U.S. Virgin Islands are higher still.

HIV battle becomes personal for Walgreens manager in Tampa's College Hill neighborhood 06/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 6:51pm]

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