Health

Florida Leads United States In New HIV Cases

| by Kathryn Schroeder
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Florida has the highest number of new HIV infections across the nation, according to data compiled by Florida Health.

There were 6,147 people diagnosed with HIV in Florida in 2014. About 15 of the individuals were younger than 13 years old and 80 percent of adult cases were males.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties had the highest number of new cases, 1,411 and 993 respectively.

More than 2,600 AIDS cases were diagnosed during the same period in the state.

Florida was number one in new HIV cases in 2013, too, with 5,377 infections reported. California was second with 5,334, Texas third with 4,854, New York fourth with 3,803, and Georgia fifth with 3,020 new HIV infections.

The amount of new HIV infections in Florida during 2015 is estimated to be over 6,000, the highest since 2002, according to the Miami Herald.

Over the past four years, the state has cut personnel in the Department of Health, shrinking the size of county health departments.

It is now being questioned whether the decision by Gov. Rick Scott and the state's top health officer, Dr. John Armstrong, to cut healthcare funding has led to a sicker population in the state, as others have seen a decline in HIV infections over the past few years while Florida’s numbers have increased.

Armstrong said the state is spending $34 million on HIV and AIDS prevention in 2015, thanks to a federal grant.

“Staff reductions did not impact the surveillance, education, prevention, counseling, testing, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients,” Armstrong said in a statement, according to Miami Herald.

There are those who think Armstrong needs to talk about HIV and AIDS more, instead of focusing so much on childhood obesity.

“Without leadership at the head of the agency speaking about this, it creates a hurdle,” David Poole, director of legislative affairs for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said.

Poole worked in the Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS program for 12 years and believes the staff reductions have influenced the growing rate of infections.

Armstrong was appointed by Scott to be Florida’s surgeon general and health secretary in 2012.

In his first year, there were 4,512 new cases of HIV infections. The number has increased every year since then, placing Florida as the state with the most new infections per year.

“It’s indicative of the neglect of this administration across the board in social services,” Democratic State Sen. Oscar Braynon said. “We have a rise in AIDS and we have a reduction in public health spending. We’re now cutting just to be cutting.”

Armstrong is up for confirmation by the state Senate next week, and the Health Policy Committee is reportedly critical of him.

“We’ve seen a reduction in services provided by county health departments,” Republican State Sen. Don Gaetz said. “Health conditions exacerbate and folks wind up in emergency rooms. That’s a cycle that doesn’t end well for patients or taxpayers.”

Sources: Miami Herald, Florida Health / Photo credit: Sham Hardy/Flickr