Florida officials are partnering with the federal government to end the state’s HIV epidemic, which is one of the worst in the nation, reports the Miami Herald. Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Núñez and several public health officials met with Robert Redfield, MD, the executive director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), earlier this month to discuss a plan to tackle HIV and to announce the collaboration.
Federal aid arrives in Florida thanks to President Trump’s Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. Announced earlier this year, the plan aims to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75% in the next five years and by 90% in the next 10 years. To date, Trump has pledged $291 million of the federal budget to achieve these goals.
Under the initiative, the 50 jurisdictions with the highest HIV rates are eligible to receive financial and technological help along with expertise from the federal government to tackle their local epidemics. Seven Florida counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Duval Counties—are among these jurisdictions.
With more than 115,000 of its 21.7 million residents living with HIV or AIDS—many unaware of their status—Florida has the third highest HIV rate in the nation, after Washington, DC, and Georgia. In 2017, public health officials identified 4,900 new cases of HIV, an increase of 3% since 2016.
Speaking of possible solutions to Florida’s HIV challenge, Redfield cited PrEP prescriptions and mobile health-care units that “reach people where they live rather than waiting for infected individuals to seek out care at hospitals and clinics.”
The Miami Herald notes that one of the most innovative prevention programs in the state has been the IDEA Exchange, a needle exchange in Miami-Dade County. A bill has been proposed to expand the program but prohibits state and local funding. It’s unclear whether federal money would be permitted to fund the exchange.
Redfield also expressed his belief that public health services and campaigns alone cannot end the HIV epidemic. Society, he told the Miami Herald, must change the way it sees HIV and stop stigmatizing the disease and those living with it.
“HIV is not a partisan issue,” Núñez added, “but a very problematic health concern that affects our communities greatly.”