In era of AIDS, risk of deceit grows

Two years ago, the AIDS Resource Alliance was visited by a "physician" demonstrating a contraption called an ozone generator. "We laughed him out of the office," recalls Matt LaVictoire, client-services coordinator. "He didn't have an office. He said he was working out of his car." While they spotted the con, many Floridians were among those taken for more than $100,000 by scam artists who sold the machines, which supposedly cleansed the body with toxic levels of oxygen gas. At least three people died, reported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Preying on the desperate hopes of those with HIV/AIDS, the sale of fraudulent products and treatments runs to as much as $10 billion a year, the FDA estimates. And as a state with the third highest incidence of AIDS, Florida is home to one of 15 task forces created by the FDA to fight such fraud. On Aug. 27, the Florida AIDS Health Fraud Task Force will hold a conference designed to educate health-care professionals about those and similar scams. Also tailored to community organizations and persons with AIDS -- but open to the public -- the conference will feature specialists from the FDA, Florida Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline discussing topics ranging from Internet information to the latest in alternative medicine and therapies. The Florida AIDS Health Fraud Task Force Statewide Conference, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 27, Adams Mark Hotel, 1500 Sand Lake Rd., (850)413-0739.
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