The World AIDS Museum is in search of a permanent home and it's hoping to set up shop in the Fort Lauderdale area. Organizers have their eye specifically on Wilton Manors, a neighborhood with an active LGBT community.
In a Sun Sentinel story, Steve Stagon, the museum's president and CEO said "AIDS is a story of our lifetime. Everyone in the United States is either infected or affected by AIDS." Stagon himself has been HIV-positive for 23 years.
Statistics show that South Florida is disproportionately affected by the disease. The Florida Department of Health reports that in 2010, there were 864 new cases of HIV reported in Broward County. Only Miami-Dade -- which had 1,242 new cases that year -- had higher rates of infection in the state. Meanwhile, numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that Florida in 2009 was the leading state in newly-diagnosed cases of HIV, with 5,775 incidents reported that year.
A South Florida Gay News story said Stagon is seeking a 1,000- to 2,500-square-foot location, as well as volunteers and funding for the project. Interested parties can contact the organization via its website.
Museum organizers told the Sun Sentinel that the mission of the museum -- which will include original works of art in addition to educational materials -- is "five-fold." Among the goals are "documenting the history of the disease," "educating the public about it," and "enlightening people about its continuing tragedy."
The South Florida Gay News piece also reports of a gallery dedicated to teaching visitors about "the stigma, criminalization and negative stereotypes of the disease." A litany of negative comments in response to Thursday's Sun Sentinel piece suggests that the stigma persists for some in the community.