August 2, 2012
State health officials continue to grapple with a significant HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Florida.
Around one in every 100 residents of Broward County are HIV-infected, as are one of every 170 people living in Palm Beach County. In Broward, an estimated one in 44 black men have HIV.
"In South Florida we have an epidemic," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told the state's members of Congress during the 19th International AIDS Conference. "We have an epidemic among men in the gay community. We have an epidemic in the African-American community. The numbers are astronomical."
Some progress is being made, however. New data from the Florida Department of Health show a 17 percent decline in new AIDS cases for the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year -- 1,161 vs. 1,401. And annually, about 400,000 residents are tested for HIV, thanks to statewide initiatives.
Advocates are focusing their efforts on closing the gap between HIV diagnosis and treatment, with the uninsured or those who lack access to care especially affected. Activists are calling on Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators to drop their resistance to the Affordable Care Act and agree to expand Medicaid coverage.