Though nowhere near the HIV/AIDS scare of the 1980s, the scourge may be resurfacing in increasing numbers of infected Floridians.
Despite national HIV infection rates being lower than what they were in the 1990s and 2000s, the number of infections has begun to steadily rise in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, there were 273 new cases of HIV in Hillsborough County during 2012.
In 2013, there were 347 and in 2014, there were 445.
Hillsborough isn’t the only county to suffer an increase in the amount of recorded HIV infections. Between 2012 and 2014, there have been 2,599 new cases of HIV in Broward County and 3,892 in Miami-Dade County.
There is still no cure for HIV although the amount of support for individuals has grown since the outbreak in the 1980s.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) granted Florida-based Metro Wellness and Community Centers $350,000 over a five-year period to stem the spread of the virus by educating the community on the risks and offering free HIV testing.
This is part of a national $216 million initiative to relieve the hardest hit areas – such as Hillsborough, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
These numbers show the HIV infection rate has increased 63 percent across a three-year period. While HIV can be contracted for anyone who is sexually active, the demographics most at risk are gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 24, according to federal AIDS information site AIDS.gov.
According to AIDS.gov, one in eight individuals living with HIV are unaware of their infection and many of them are increasing the need for sexually active people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. The CDC estimates that 1.2 million people are currently infected in the U.S.
The financial costs associated with the disease can be devastating for those who can’t afford to pay expensive medical bills, like the homeless and drug-addicted. Many infections occur when individuals share needles with strangers.
The Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office (DACCO) offers free HIV testing at USF every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 1-5 p.m.