Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, along with Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees, said the plan is only going to be successful if every Floridian helps. Nunez said the state has outlined four steps that include routine HIV and STD testing and access to both pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis to stop the spread of HIV.
For pre-exposure medicine to work, it must be taken every day and is especially effective for high-risk individuals. Post-exposure medicine is usually given to medical professionals who have been exposed to HIV.
The HIV virus causes AIDS, for which there is no cure for either. HIV destroys the body’s immune system and is commonly spread through sexual contact and sharing needles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida’s rate of HIV diagnosis was 22.9 per 100,000 people in 2017, putting it just behind Georgia (24.9 per 100,000) and the District of Columba (46.3 per 100,000).
The announcement of the new grant funding took place on National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. According to Nunez, the Latino community has seen a rapid rise in the number of people diagnosed with HIV, with 34 percent of new diagnoses in 2018 happening in the Latino community.
Nunez said Latinos should learn what their HIV status is, even not just to stop the virus’ reach and get early treatment of the disease and reduce mortality rates. Nunez said there also should be more sympathy and tolerance.
She said HIV should be treated as a chronic illness to lessen the shame, stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.
In his March State of the Union address, President Donald Trump announced he was looking to end the epidemic in 10 years. The next month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would launch a multi-phase approach to eliminate the disease with Phase one diagnosing everybody with HIV as quickly as possible.
Phase 1 includes money to 48 counties and seven rural states that have the highest HIV numbers. The seven counties in Florida with the highest rates include Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Pinellas.
Nunez said the funding is coming from the federal level, not state. She said the funding that’s coming will be used to fight the HIV infection. Last month, a report detailed that former Gov. Rick Scott and his administration refused $54 million in federal grant money that was to be used in the fight against HIV. Since January, Scott has become senators, and Ron DeSantis became the state’s governor.
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