Florida is one of those states in the U.S. that have been hit hard by HIV/AIDS. As per the latest statistics, southern U.S. states (including Florida) are home to roughly half of the people currently living with HIV in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 2019, the South experiences the biggest burden of HIV and HIV-related mortality rates compared to other regions in the U.S. while it lags in the provision of quality HIV treatment, prevention, and care.
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HIV/AIDS is a serious and life-threatening disease that targets the body's immune system and makes the patient vulnerable to several other infections. Since there's no cure for the disease, reducing the transmission rate, minimizing the impact of the disease on those living with HIV, and providing quality treatment is the key to addressing this issue. In this regard, testing for HIV infection plays a crucial role.
The reason why there has been a steady increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS cases in Florida is that most people don't seek out testing, despite being sexually active. This approach undermines the preventive treatment's efficacy. People fear being ostracized in case they are HIV-positive.
According to the Florida Health Department, every day, 15 individuals get diagnosed with HIV infection in Florida, which is alarming.
CDC suggests that those HIV-positive people who take antiretroviral medications daily and stay in care do not pose a risk to other individuals as they cannot spread/transmit the virus to their HIV-negative partner. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated its HIV Treatment Guidelines in January 2016. As per the new rules, antiretroviral therapy should be initiated immediately after diagnosis regardless of the HIV viral load. It is possible only when the infection is detected at the right time. Therefore, without wasting any time, get yourself tested for HIV/AIDS.
Over three decades later, since the preliminary HIV diagnoses were made in the U.S., the stigma related to HIV/AIDS is still a barrier in comprehensively addressing the issue. The Florida Department of Health has been rather proactive in devising and implementing preventive measures to control the infection's spreading and transmission. Reducing the transmission of HIV is among the seven priority goals set by the health care ministry in the state.
There are two AIDS Education and Training Centers in Florida, which offer comprehensive resources and guidance to health care providers for the prevention/treatment of HIV/AIDS. These include the North Florida AETC and the South Florida AETC. Moreover, Florida has adopted a multi-dimensional approach to strengthen patient care activities and prevent transmission to reduce the state's growth rate of HIV cases.
One such strategy is the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program, launched to gather accurate HIV data to assess trends and plan and implement HIV programs across the state. This involved offering maximum testing facilities to timely monitor treatment needs. The Test & Treat program has been launched to address the issue of HIV transmission and decrease the number of deaths due to HIV. It helps patients receive immediate consultation from a clinician in a culturally-appropriate manner, expand access to antiretroviral medications, undergo medical assessments, and seek guidance on the management of HIV to improve quality of life.
The Ready, Set, PrEP program initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is another important measure to help people living with HIV. Through this program, free pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications are offered for free to eligible individuals.
In 2018, the number of new diagnoses of HIV reached 4,573, with 25 new diagnoses per 100,000 people. In 2016, Miami had the highest rate of new infections per capita in any U.S. city, with 47 per 100,000 population. Florida is home to half of the people infected with HIV in the U.S., while 4 out of the ten metropolitan areas having the highest rate of new infections per 100,000 persons are in Florida.
Florida was ranked number 2 in the list of U.S. states with the highest HIV diagnoses rates in 2018 and number 1 in states with most people living with HIV. According to the Florida Department of Health statistics, in 2016, the state had 135,986 individuals infected with HIV. Out of these, around 15% (approx. 21,214) of these people were unaware of their status, explaining the state's overall high transmission rate.
The rate of reported HIV cases per 100,000 people in Florida in 2017 was 24%, slightly decreasing in 2018 with 23.4%. On the whole, there were 4,096 new HIV diagnoses in Florida in 2018. The death toll for HIV-positive people in 2018 was 1,916, whereas there was a significant difference between gender variance. Around 70.6% of males and 29.4% of females died of HIV in 2018.
The overall rate of people living with HIV in Florida per 100,000 people was 607 in 2018, and the percentage of people living with HIV was 72.7% for males and 27.3% for females.
In terms of race/ethnicity, the proportion of African-Americans was the highest in the rate of newly diagnosed HIV infections with 40%, followed by Latinos and Hispanics with 34%, and 23.7% of total cases were reported among Whites in 2018.
The fatality rate from HIV infection (per 100,000 people) was also the highest among Blacks in 2018 with 48.6 percentage, followed by 31.3% Whites and 17.3% Hispanics. In 2018, a considerable decline was noted in the rate of new HIV cases in the African-American population with 50.9% (per 100,000 people) compared to 64.1% in 2017. However, in Hispanics, there was an increase noted in 2018, with 30.9% reported cases compared to 29.9% in 2017.
As per the statistics by the Broward County Health Department, in 2009, around 20% of new HIV cases and nearly 25% of AIDS diagnoses in Florida were of people above the age of 50. Over half of these cases were reported in South Florida. These statistics suggest that older Floridians are at greater risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS infection.
Health experts state that most older Americans are sexually active but not practicing safe sex and may even be less knowledgeable about the disease and, therefore, never seek testing. In Florida, according to data from the F.L. Department of Health, Bureau of Communicable Diseases, around 60,888 people out of the reported 116,944 individuals living with HIV in 2017 were older adults.
Furthermore, 1,114 out of 4,940 (almost 23%) of people who received HIV diagnosis in Florida were senior citizens, and out of 2,044 people diagnosed with AIDS, 674 were older adults. In this context, the proportion of Blacks was still higher in this category with 40%, followed by 33% Whites, and 25% Hispanics in 2017. As far as the age is concerned, people between 50 and 59 had the most HIV diagnoses in 2017 (64%).