Sunday, February 5, 2023

HIV cases are on the rise in Florida, and many people don’t know they have it

While HIV is under control in many parts of the country, Florida leads the nation in new infections.

About 5,000 people a year are diagnosed with HIV in Florida, a number that hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years, while declining 8% nationwide.

Overall, about 120,000 people in Florida are living with HIV and more than 17,700 have not been diagnosed and are likely to transmit the virus to others without a vit.

As the world acknowledges its progress on World AIDS Day, December 1, Florida is stuck in the past.

“My team in California says Florida reminds them of what it looked like in the midst of the HIV crisis in the early 1990s: We [más de] Two decades behind in terms of orientation, policies and infrastructure”. said Elena Cyrus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida who has studied HIV in the state and across the country.

Federal and state programs offer free or subsidized HIV treatment to low-income people as well as prevention in the form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill or a bi-monthly injection that increases the chances of a person getting HIV. can be reduced dramatically. contract HIV through sex or injection drug use. In Florida, millions of dollars are pouring in from state and federal governments and various grant organizations for these purposes.

Testing at clinic and mobile testing sites is available at no cost throughout Florida, and health department sites in each Florida county offer free home HIV test kits.

But these resources don’t always reach the right people: young minorities who have multiple sex partners. Sexual contact is responsible for the majority of transmissions.

An Advertisement For Free Hiv Testing Can Be Seen Wednesday At The Out Of The Closet Thrift Store In Wilton Manors.

African-Americans and Hispanics, especially those aged 20 to 39, account for the bulk of new cases in Florida, according to state health data. Communities such as Doral and Overtown in Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale’s Oakland Park and Sistrunk in Broward County, and Downtown Orlando and Orlo Vista in Orange County stand out for their high infection rates.

Stigma, which is prevalent throughout the Southeast, including Florida, prevents some of the most vulnerable populations from being diagnosed.

“People are very afraid to get tested for fear of losing their jobs or ruining relationships with family,” said David Poole, director of legislative affairs for the AIDS Health Foundation of Florida. “Stigma keeps people from getting tested and seeking care early and the sooner you get tested, the better the health outcome.”

Hispanics account for a growing share of new infections.

Local experts believe there are several reasons for this: fear of employers being reported or being deported to their home countries, limited education about HIV risk in their homes due to religious values, or sexual abuse that put them at risk. puts in

“South Florida is an area of ​​immigrants, many coming with beliefs, cultural norms and information that are completely different from what Caucasians may think and know,” said Stephen Fallon, executive director of Latino Salud, a Miami Operates four wellness clinics. Dade and Broward Counties. “Once a communicable disease takes hold in a community, it multiplies.”

Fallon said Hispanics who need PrEP most often don’t get it, or make appointments and don’t keep them, or start taking the drug and then stop taking their pills.

Suggests a new approach to enrolling the minority gay community in prevention medications.

“Those who like and understand the target population do best,” he said. “It’s not just about speaking Spanish. It’s about lowering the barriers to getting PrEP for people in a particular population, and it should be as free as possible.”

According to state statistics, most people with the virus in Florida are on medication and are considered virally suppressed. Where Florida is lacking, experts say, is in outreach and education.

For example, states such as New York have invested heavily in marketing the availability of preventive drugs.

Eric Shrimshaw, who came to the University of Central Florida after working at Columbia University, says New York puts up PrEP signs at every subway and bus station. In Florida, he says, HIV treatment and prevention are discussed in the shadows.

He believes that the state legislature needs to give more attention and funds to the issue.

“The states that have been most successful in doing this are the ones that have invested the resources to prevent it,” Mrmshaw said.

A lack of messages related to HIV diagnosis and prevention may not be driving down infection rates among young adults in the state, says Sylvie Naar, professor emeritus at State University College of Medicine, Florida.

“Younger people are more likely to have an undiagnosed infection, have poorer connections to care, and have the lowest rates for PrEP,” she said.

She and her research team at the FSU Center for Translational Behavioral Science are working to understand what messaging should be used to reach young people.

“If someone is in a high-risk group, they should get tested every six months,” Naar said. “If they go to get tested and they feel uncomfortable, they will not come back. That’s a big part of it.”

In Fort Lauderdale, Fallon of Latino Salud told of a 25-year-old man who got tested in early spring but juggled multiple jobs and never returned to the clinic to take preventive medication. When an employee at the clinic finally urged him to return for another test months later, he tested positive for HIV.

“There are many stories like his,” Fallon said.

Naar said several factors specific to Florida contribute to the high rate of HIV among young people: Florida’s limits on sex education and HIV prevention in schools, and the state’s requirement that minors start PrEP under parental supervision. Get father’s consent.

“Minority Youth” [LGBTQ] They don’t have sex education that works for them and they don’t know how to have safe sex or have healthy relationships,” he said.

Daniel Downer, executive director of the Orlando-based black-led queer grassroots initiative Bros In Convo, said he has met many gay or queer people of color who have received only abstinence education.

“Some people who come to our door, the first thing we talk to is about condoms. We are the first ones to talk to him about getting tested, because no one has ever talked to him like this. The conversation was always ‘you don’t have sex,'” Downer said.

In Miami-Dade, a county with high HIV prevalence in several zip codes, Dr. St. Anthony Amofah is medical director of community health for South Florida Inc. Amofah wants PrEP and testing to be recommended at all points of entry to medical care. Primary care practices, urgent care, hospitals and community clinics.

“Most of the spread comes from people who don’t get tested, who don’t know,” Amofah said.

Amofah said access barriers to testing are a bigger problem now than drug funding. “There may be pockets in immigrant communities where people do not have the time or means to travel for testing or ongoing care. So while money is available, if someone doesn’t have the time or transportation, that’s all the more reason not to know their status.”

In Miami, Dr. Maria Alcide, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Miami, said testing is critical to controlling the pandemic. “We have good treatments that allow people living with HIV to live long, healthy lives,” he said. “If everyone with HIV took an effective drug, there would be no transmission in that population.”

In Florida, about 13.5% of people with HIV don’t know it, according to state estimates.

Alcide, who directs the Miami Center for AIDS Research, said he is testing innovative outreach approaches, sending mobile units to areas of communities with the most new infections. “We have the tools, we just need to get them to the people who need them most.”

She recommends that everyone, man or woman, straight or otherwise, get tested. “HIV is an infection that occurs in both men and women, and about 20% of new infections are in women.”

“We have to recognize all the progress that has been made in terms of AIDS prevention, treatment and prevention of progression,” he said. “But we also have to recognize that we have challenges for early diagnosis and prevention of new infections.”

Nation World News Desk
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