TAMPA — “This is an ongoing issue,” said Dr. Carina Rodriguez, Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Florida.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this year that Florida leads the nation in the number of new HIV cases.
Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties were listed by the federal government as areas with “substantial HIV burden” for adults and adolescents.
According to research from the Florida Department of Health, the rate of infection in some parts of the state is over 80%.
“It is a problem that many families actually still live with,” said Rodriguez.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 3 million children worldwide under the age of 19 live with HIV and an estimated 120,000 children died from AIDS-related causes last year.
With HIV cases still high across Florida, there’s a likelihood the disease will be passed on to babies from pregnant mothers infected with HIV.
“We have programs actually to make sure pregnant women get tested throughout pregnancy but unfortunately we do still have prenatal transmission,” said Rodriguez.
That’s one of the reasons why the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine was involved in a study this year about an HIV medication, Biktarvy, that led to its FDA approval for younger kids.
“Now we actually have the expanded access to children that weigh more than 14 kilos to 25. So this is a single tablet that combines 3 different medications for HIV,” said Rodriguez.
This is a big deal for younger children living with this disease because they have far less treatment options available than adults do.
“Usually there is a lack of medications that are eligible actually for children that are younger. So this is actually key for these children,” said Rodriguez.
While the approval of this medication is great news for families dealing with this in our community and nationwide, local officials are still working to lower these numbers.
“We have a lot of resources, we dedicate a lot of efforts try and prevent this from happening,” said Rodriguez.
I think prevention is really key here. Prenatal detection in pregnancy, making sure that these moms actually get the medication that they need while they’re pregnant and then there after for their health,” she added.