Miami, Florida is a unique and beautiful city. It is a favorite destination for vacation and business conferences and boasts stunning beaches and a rich history and culture. However, often overlooked are the public health and education issues underlying a misleading appearance of paradise. Our youth suffer the most from this lack of awareness. For example, Miami currently holds the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the nation. In 2017, youth ages 13-24 received 12% of new diagnoses (1). Also, although Miami represents only 13% of Florida’s population, it is home to 24% of those living with HIV in the state (1). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance reports, Miami has consistently topped the national list of HIV/AIDS rates dating back as far as 1993 (2). Why?

I work as a clinical program coordinator with the University of Miami’s Adolescent and Counseling Testing Services (ACTS). We direct an ongoing campaign named “Promote 2 Prevent,” an initiative to encourage young adults to take charge of their health and lives through counseling, HIV/STD testing and community engagement. Our patients frequently present us with overlapping issues: homelessness due to negligent parents, school absences because of a struggle with substance abuse – the Venn diagrams are a perfect circle. Miami is burdened with high rates of human trafficking, homelessness, substance abuse, and poverty. These conditions are worsened by a disparity in the availability of high quality education. Many leaders recognize these problems and devote their careers to combating them, as exemplified by the large number of organizations and campaigns established in our county. So again, why is Miami still overwhelmed by public health issues?

There are a number of reasons: unique needs of a minority and immigrant population, widespread drug use, touristic escapism, and marginalized populations that have insufficient access to high quality health care and education. One reason stands out. Community health workers typically have one or two liaisons that are assigned to conduct site visits to other organizations and engage in health committees. Thus, the majority of the members of an organization may be unaware of local resources that they can recommend to their patients. An increase in collaboration is required to make a difference in the lives of our at-risk and disadvantaged residents. ACTS is working to provide the medium: an online and comprehensive Miami-Dade Care Directory, created by the people, for the people. It is featured on this page. We hope it will eventually serve as a cornerstone for our community as a resource for patients and providers. We want to call our fellow public health leaders to action and ask that they submit a listing request to our website, so that we can provide the most accurate and updated information possible. While referrals can be of assistance, patients can become lost to care if they have to jump through too many hoops to achieve communication or an appointment. We aim to break down this barrier by planning for team members to conduct weekly site visits to potential partners to introduce ourselves, provide contact information, and ask for the contact information of a representative that can simplify the transition from our clinic to their services. We encourage local services to do the same. Together, we can do better.

Learn more at www.promote2prevent.org. The directory can be found under “MIA Community.” To submit a listing request, click here.

1. http://www.flhealthcharts.com/charts/default.aspx 2. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/hiv-surveillance-archive.html


Join us on June 27th for National HIV Testing day. We are a Miami clinic that provides FREE comprehensive health services for young adults… Everything from education to HIV, STD, and pregnancy testing and treatment! Located near Civic Center Station. Call (305) 243-2174 or visit www.promote2prevent.org for appointments and more info.


Check out this cool event:


The main march will take place in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 24 at 10 a.m. Supporters are also planning sister marches in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, and dozens of other cities.

In addition to showing their support for victims of gun violence, march organizers hope the rally will inspire concrete legislative outcomes.

Participants are also coming together to register voters at various marches, to ensure that outrage today will translate to high turnout during November’s midterm elections.

If for whatever reason you can’t attend a rally on March 24, there are other ways to help. You can donate to the GoFundMe page Stoneman Douglas students put together for the event (any money they receive beyond their $2 million goal will go to victims’ funds) or sponsor a student to travel to the march by contacting info@marchforourlives.com.


My son is fifteen-years-old. Which means…he’s in the throes of puberty.

What have been some of his issues?

Many of these are common issues of any child (in this case a male child) going through puberty:

*Dealing with growing facial hair. Learn how to shave. We bought him an electric razor and my husband gave him a lesson. He does it himself now.

*Dealing with other hair. This became a bit of an issue when my son decided to try to shave his legs (the ankle part). I asked him why he did that and he said he just wanted to try it. I explained to him that most male don’t shave their legs (as well as saying that many females also don’t shave their legs).

*His hair is shoulder length and a bit unruly. His choice, and it’s fine with us as long as his hair gets regular cleaning. He has my thick hair, so he needs an occasional haircut, too.  

*Body odor. We’re lucky here because we have one of those teenagers that LIKES to shower. And, he likes clean, dry clothes. It he spills on his clothes, he usually has to change right away.

*Acne. I bought him a facial soap that, when he uses it consistently (he had to be encouraged to do this), his face looks pretty good.

*Changing his look. Yep, the kid who never really cared about his “look,” and wore shorts almost his entire life, suddenly wanted to wear pants and a coat when he started high school. He told me that he wanted to do it, and wasn’t teased into it or pressured or whatever. I just can’t wait until summer comes again with its ninety degree days.

*Growing in spurts. He’s always done this, of course, like all kids. But, now it’s significant because he’s almost taller than me!

*Attitude. Now I get it. Now I understand why my teenaged years were so awful. ‘Nough said.

*(I just had to add this one.)

Getting him out of bed on a school morning. I used to have that kid that was up BEFORE me. All through elementary school, he was the first one awake. Then, he went to middle school and it all changed. Now, it’s sometimes a project to get him out of bed. The problem is he doesn’t like to go to school without a little bit of “me” time (eating breakfast and doing a bit on his phone). So, yes, there has been some “challenges” in the mornings.

Any other advice regarding puberty?

Even though I have a boy, I do have a few examples of things a girl with autism deals with when it comes to going through puberty.

One girl I know (with autism) is two years older than my son.

After her monthly cycle began, she thought that she had to change her pad every time she went to the bathroom. Suffice it to say, her mom was purchasing a lot of pads. (And, she may still be doing it.)

Additionally, this teenaged girl would also get upset if her monthly cycle didn’t come on the same day each month. Trust me, it doesn’t come on the same day. And, you can’t control that.

So, again, what’s a mother or a parent to do about that?

These parents have different issues to deal with because they have a girl, but they’re still very important issues and have to be handled with care.

How did we handle our issues?

My husband and I have always talked with our son. We explain things as delicately as possible, and answer any and all questions. (“Mommy, what is sex?” That was came my way two years ago.)

We have also purchased books and asked him to read them.

My husband took him into the bathroom and showed him how to shave (we bought him an electric razor and a trimmer. My husband believes its better than he learn how to shave with an electric rather than a blade.)

The attitude issue one of the tricky ones to deal with. Sometimes, I just don’t accept it. He just has to correct his response to me, to one with less ‘tude.

We talk about respecting other people, and sounding like you respect them, which means you cannot—even to your parents—respond with attitude.

After he gets in trouble with me for using too much attitude, we’ll talk about why he impulsively sometimes responds with attitude. I tell him it’s mostly his age. He’s testing boundaries and flexing his independence. I’ll tell him most of the time it’s not about his autism (except for the impulsiveness).

He’ll be fine, for a while. Then, that lovely little ‘tude will reappear.

He also gets angry at certain times, especially while playing his video games and when he makes mistakes. We’ve told him that everyone makes mistakes, but he takes them hard.

An example that involves autism is he had decided that he couldn’t go to bed without winning a game of Super Smash Bros. He wanted to be able to ignore the time he had to go to bed in order to go to bed with a win, however long that took.

We had to put a stop to that. We discussed it with him saying he was really setting himself up to either fail, get in trouble with his parents, or lose sleep.

Now, if he gets a win when it’s close to bedtime, he’ll stop himself and that’ll be it for the night.  

When it comes to anger and being hard on himself, he was very upset when he broke his foot recently.  The good news is he probably won’t go flying down our driveway on his scooter any time soon. He disliked that whole experience!

I believe parents take the brunt of a lot our kids going through puberty. For example, I haven’t received any reports from school about attitude. I consider that good news because he is respecting other people.

And, yes, I know someday he’ll grow out of this and things will settle down.

And, I know he loves us, and we love him. We do talk about these things a lot. We tell him all the time that things will get better. We know it will.

Autism and puberty. (Lots of fun!)

More on Kimberly Kaplan:

To purchase “Two Years Autism Blogs Featured on ModernMom.com” or “A Parentsʼ Guide to Early Autism Intervention” visit Amazon (print or digital) or Smashwords      Twitter: tipsautismmom    

LinkedIn: Kimberly Kaplan

You can also find this autism blog on ModernMom.com

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