Tampa – Florida reported the most new HIV diagnoses of any state in 2019, according to the CDC’s latest HIV surveillance report. It recorded 4,387 new cases, ahead of California (4,354), Texas (4,302) and Georgia (2,439).
The Sunshine State ranked third in new diagnoses per 100,000 population, behind the District of Columbia and Georgia.
What would you like to know
- Florida has more new HIV cases than any other state, CDC reports
- Data shows minority and LGBTQ community disproportionately affected
- Doctors say virus is no longer a death sentence and early detection key
âI would like to say that I was surprised, but I was not really surprised,â said Joy Winheim, executive director of Empath Partners in Care (EPIC). “We looked at the HIV numbers and STI numbers over the past year or two, even, and noticed a slight increase in the number of cases.”
Winheim said the large number of people moving to Florida from other parts of the country could be part of the reason the state took the top spot. Another could be the advancements in prevention and treatment options.
âHIV is no longer a death sentence,â Winheim said. âIf you are HIV positive you will lead a normal, long and healthy life. People are willing to take the risk without using protection, without using PrEP, because, âIf I get it, I can just take the drugs and I’ll be fine. “
âThe story isn’t just about the big number,â said Chris Gudis, senior director of sexual health and prevention programs for Metro Inclusive Health.
Gudis said information from the local health department shows that racial and ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected by HIV.
âThis speaks to the social issues behind HIV, a history of racism and structural racism that has contributed to the social determinants of health that have fostered poor outcomes in communities of color,â said Gudis.
According to information from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the CDC, while blacks make up 12% of the US population, they account for 40% of HIV cases. Hispanics make up 19% of the population and account for 25% of cases.
Gudis said Metro Inclusive Health follows the national strategy of âEnding the HIV Epidemicâ to fight the virus locally. He said the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, to prevent infections and viral suppression treatments for people living with HIV are cornerstones of the effort. Gudis and Winheim both said that another result of effective HIV treatments was that it was not as much in the spotlight as it was years ago.
âWe have to start talking about HIV to stop it, and one of the first things anyone can do is find out your status,â Gudis said.
EPIC is preparing to open a new sexual health center on 49th S. Street in St. Petersburg. Winheim said it was an area of ââthe city with a high number of cases. She said more help is on the way.
âThe government is flooding this region with money so that we can create new and innovative programs so that we can do what we couldn’t do, and we couldn’t bring down the tariffs,â Winheim said. .
Sunday June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Gudis said in addition to the free tests always provided at Metro Inclusive Health offices, they will also be offering testing at St. Pete Pride events this weekend.
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