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On World AIDS Day Florida leads the nation in new HIV cases

Florida leads the U.S. in the number of new HIV cases
HIV ribbon CNN 030419
Posted at 6:56 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 18:56:23-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida is leading the nation in HIV prevalence. According to research from the Florida Department of Health, the rate of infection in some parts of the state is over 80%.

ABC Action News reporter Anthony Hill broke down the numbers for us on how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

People around the world showed solidarity for those who have been affected by HIV on this World AIDS Day. The first World AIDS Day took place in 1989, “since then, we’ve had World AIDS Day every year,” said Dr. Bob Wallace with the Love the Golden Rule Clinic in St. Petersburg.

Dr. Wallace has been an HIV doctor for decades. He still remembers when the HIV/AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s. Back then, an HIV diagnosis was a sure death sentence for many people, “we spent all of our time having vigils at patients’ homes helping them pass over.”

He said many people died within 6 months, but today, with modern-day medications, HIV is not a death sentence. In fact, we have come so far that the life expectancy of someone living with HIV is no different than someone without it, “we now have treatment that people can get an injection once a month and keep their HIV under control.” Many people living with the virus only have to take one pill a day.

Though we have made several strides in controlling this virus, we still have a way to go. According to the CDC, Florida leads the U.S. in the number of new HIV cases. African Americans, Latinos and men who have sex with men are the most at risk of contracting the virus.

Dr. Wallace says education is one of the best ways to lower the rate of HIV contractions. He says he used to lecture about HIV prevention at local high schools on a monthly basis until a state policy changed how we provide sex education. “During the Bush Administration, they eliminated the opportunity to discuss anything but abstinence.”

Once someone starts to get treated after an HIV diagnosis, they can suppress their viral loads to a point where it is virtually impossible to give it to someone else. According to the CDC, 66% of Floridians living with HIV are virally suppressed, but the goal is for 80%. He also said, knowing your status can prevent HIV from turning into full-blown AIDS. 13% of Floridians living with HIV, do not even know they have it. “The agencies that are involved in recommendations for healthcare, recommend that everyone age 13 to 64 be tested for HIV.”

Here is a link to find the nearest testing center