JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New data just released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Florida now leads the nation in the number of new HIV cases. The CDC says that number for 2019 stood at nearly 4,400.
The same report shows the Sunshine State has 23.7 cases overall per 100,000 people. That’s compared to 13.2 for all of the U.S.
Dr. Mohammed Reza, the medical director for CAN Community Health’s Jacksonville clinic, said while HIV numbers are always a concern, the reality is they’ve been declining for several years in Florida. But more work needs to be done.
“There’s a huge stigma attached,” Reza said. “The fact that this is a virus that can infect anybody -- man, woman -- that’s the reality.”
Reza said Duval County’s HIV rates are concerning as well.
“In Duval County, we’re the fourth-highest rate,” Reza said. “We’re looking at about 29.2 per 100,000 people tested that are coming back positive for HIV.”
Also troubling, he said, there’s an alarming disparity in the number of cases involving minorities.
“People that are white, it’s about 9.6 out of 100,000,” Reza said. “Whereas, if you’re African American, it’s a whopping 58.3 per 100,000. We’ve seen this across the country and across Florida.”
Reza said that’s why testing, education and prevention are so important. He said there is such a disparity because of lack of access to care and information about available medications. He points to what’s known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
PrEP is a preventative measure to stop the spread of HIV. Reza said Descovy and Truvada are two medications currently on the market which are highly effective at preventing the spread. They’re a once-a-day pill.
Reza said it’s the same concept as women’s daily birth control.
“This is something that should be available to everyone in a population that is sexually active, or has a history of IV drug abuse, who are just at a higher risk,” Reza said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t even know about this.”
In the end, regular testing will make all the difference.
“If you don’t get tested, if you don’t find out your status, you just don’t know,” Reza said. “This virus can last in the person’s body for months to years.”
Free HIV testing is available at CAN Community Health and in clinics throughout Jacksonville. To learn more, visit their website.