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HIV in Florida

Casey Brooke Lawson/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation

With Florida and St. Petersburg repeatedly ranking high for rates of HIV and AIDS, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) opened a new clinic on Monday near the Skyway Marina District.

The Florida Department of Health will begin offering a drug next year to help prevent the spread of HIV.

South Florida has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new HIV cases.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the South Florida metro area as number one for HIV diagnoses in 2015.

For decades, Cassandra Steptoe felt like she couldn't talk about her HIV diagnosis with anyone.

"I couldn't forgive myself for getting HIV," says Steptoe, who spent much of her early adult life in and out of jail for shoplifting and burglaries linked to her IV drug use. "But someone told me a long time ago, if you are looking for a reason to feel shame, you can always find it. I learned to look for something else: forgiveness."

The Florida Department of Health is pushing back against the Tampa Bay Times for criticizing a revision in the number of the new HIV cases in the state.

House Could Approve 'Rape Kit,' Needle Exchange Bills

Mar 2, 2016

The Florida House on Wednesday could give final approval to bills that would require faster testing of DNA evidence in sexual-assault cases and create a pilot needle-exchange program in Miami-Dade County.

The House on Tuesday agreed to take up versions of the bills that have already passed the Senate. If the House gives approval, the bills would be ready to go to Gov. Rick Scott.

State Surgeon General John Armstrong, who heads the Florida Department of Health, has faced scrutiny from lawmakers recently on a number of high-profile issues. The issues include the state's rising HIV rate, cuts to county health departments and 9,000 kids who lost places in the Children's Medical Services program --- which serves youngsters with "serious and chronic" conditions --- under a new eligibility screening process last year.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it will now allow gay men to donate blood, but there's a catch.

Associated Press

Today is World AIDS Day, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is first in the nation when it comes to newly diagnosed cases of HIV--the virus that can lead to AIDS.

  Jesse Dixon is walking the streets of Orlando’s Parramore neighborhood, armed with backpacks stuffed with Ziploc bags of condoms.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

In 2013, Florida had more new cases of HIV than anywhere else in the nation. When it comes to the presence of HIV in Florida, the state’s six largest metropolitan areas could be states unto themselves.

You can join us and be a part of our audience for a special Florida Matters town hall on the rising tide of HIV infection in Florida. 

For the past three years, public health activists have been trying to convince Florida lawmakers to support a needle-exchange program to fight the HIV epidemic in South Florida, and for the past three years they’ve been turned down.

One Miami activist refuses to wait for lawmakers. George Gibson is an ordained minister. Nearly everyone calls him Elder as in a church elder.

He says his needle-exchange program is related to his religious work.

“I see it as being an AIDS ministry,” he said.

President Barack Obama is unveiling an updated national strategy Thursday to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic that could have a big impact in Florida, which leads the nation in new HIV infections.

The White House unveiled the first national HIV plan in 2010, with ambitious, measurable goals: reduce new HIV diagnoses, increase the number of youth with an undetectable HIV viral load, and reduce the death rate from AIDS.

There’s been positive progress on all those, and there’s been a drop in the number of women, heterosexuals and IV-drug users contracting the disease.

A new Florida law kicking in today makes getting an HIV test easier. Doctors no longer need written consent to give patients an HIV test in health care settings, like doctor’s offices and hospitals.

The law could have a big impact in Florida, which has more new HIV infections than anywhere else in the country.

Florida insurance regulators will start reviewing health plans for discriminatory practices after three insurers were accused of charging higher prices for HIV drugs.

Saturday is National HIV Testing Day. In the lead up, groups across Florida are offering free tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

  Many Florida Department of Health offices are conducting simple blood tests for HIV and syphilis.

Poison Ivy came out as a transgender woman to her family in January.

Her grandmother kicked her out of the house. 

“She didn’t want to see me transitioning,” said Poison Ivy, who asked that her real name not be used. “It’s just so hard for her to notice that her grandson, someone that has loved her for a long time is becoming a woman.”

So Poison Ivy moved in with friends. Some of them don’t know what the 18-year-old does for a living.

Thirty years ago, a HIV-positive diagnosis was a death sentence, and gay men and IV-drug users were most likely to get infected.

Today, the demographics of infection have changed a lot, and advancements in drug treatment that make HIV a "chronic disease" have created a new set of problems.

Each year in Jacksonville, a nonprofit called JASMYN hosts a prom for LGBT youth.

Kourtnee Armanii Davinnie was crowned this year’s prom queen. She’s scared of horses, but loves unicorns. And she sometimes snaps when she talks.

Davinnie holds up a selfie taken in one of her multiple prom dresses.

If you're talking about older people and sex, you have to talk to Kate GeMeiner.

"I'm also known as Doctor Truth, the Condom Lady," the 85-year-old says.

GeMeiner lives in Broward County, and spends a lot of her time at senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Everyone thinks HIV happens to someone else.

It only infects men who are having sex with men, they say. Or HIV drug users.

And while that still accounts for about half of all people infected, those who are being diagnosed with this serious sexually transmitted disease don’t fall into simple categories. They’re young and old, straight, gay and transgender, of every race.

Charles Williams is sitting at a table with two of the young men he mentors. They get together at least twice a week.

On this day, they’re talking about sex. More specifically,  about protection.

“In the heat of the moment sometimes, a guy doesn't necessarily reach for a condom,” Williams tells Dwayne Jackson, 14, and Traivon Harris, 15. 

The boys get bashful and chuckle at William’s blunt delivery.