Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez visited Leon County’s Health Department Tuesday to bring awareness to HIV testing and treatment efforts. Nuñez spoke about HIV in Hispanic and latino communities on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.
“One of our challenges, though, is the incredible increase that we’re seeing in Latinos, that they’re accounting for 34 percent of new diagnoses of HIV in Florida – just last year,” Nuñez told reporters.
There are resources available that officials hope will slow new diagnoses. Nuñez says the drug PrEP, or Pre-exposure prophylaxis, is free at all county health departments. She is urging those who may have higher risk of contracting HIV to consider taking it. Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami Dade, Orange, Pinellas and Palm Beach are the most highly-impacted when it comes to HIV diagnoses.
There were 4,906 new HIV infections in the state in 2018. New infections have risen steadily statewide since 2013, when they were at 4,360. But that was down from 2009, when diagnoses hit 5,183. About 119,000 Floridians have HIV, according to state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.
The State Department of Health, according to Nuñez , has a four-step plan to combatting HIV: implementing routine HIV and sexually transmitted infection screenings in health care settings, providing rapid access to treatment and keeping people in care, improving access to PrEP and post-exposure treatment and increasing outreach and engagement with the public.
That outreach campaign will include asking the public to know their HIV status, and to “treat HIV like other chronic illnesses to help reduce the stigma.”
A $750,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control is funding the initiative. Rivkees says the Health Department will be applying for future grants.