South Florida continues to have the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
On average, for every hundred thousand Americans, about 15 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2016, the most recent year of data analyzed by the CDC.
Miami had a new HIV rate nearly four times the national average: 54 new diagnoses of the virus for every 100,000 people—making it the highest new HIV rate in the country. Four other Florida cities made it into the top ten list for new case rates: Fort Lauderdale at 45, West Palm Beach at 23, and Jacksonville at 26.
“But we’re hoping to see big changes,” says Trudy Love, the HIV program coordinator with Broward Health.
She and other people who work in HIV prevention say Florida has a lot of challenges. There’s the spike in heroin use, stigma around testing and treatment, a continued need to encourage safer sex practices, limited access to needle exchange, and Florida was slower than a lot of other places to support the use of PrEP—the medication approved to prevent HIV transmission.
“We compare it to a birth control pill: It is a pill that has to be taken every day,” says Love.
Florida’s Health Departments hope to offer PrEP at no or reduced cost by the end of this year. In the meantime, Love says South Florida’s affordable housing crisis makes it difficult to keep people in treatment.
“They may come and get their medication, but if they're not stable, are you really going to take your medication? The answer is, ‘No,’” says Love.
PBS NewsHour and Science magazine recently teamed up to examine the global obstacles to ending the HIV epidemic. Much of the project focused on Florida:
Florida HIV testing locations and other resources are available at KnowYourHIVStatus.com.