HIV on the rise in Florida

As of late this summer, the rate of reported cases of HIV in Florida has risen by 23 percent. Experts say cases have been increasing since 2012 due to lessened fear of dying from AIDS, inadequate safe-sex education and disease prevention, as well as an increase in the use of injected drugs such as heroin.

“I think we’re a victim of our own success because treatment has been very successful in getting people back to health,” Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told the Sun Sentinel. “A generation of people under 40 haven’t really lived with people dropping like flies around them.”

Since July 2015, 35.8 for every 100,000 Floridians were infected with HIV.

African Americans are approximately 5 percent of the Sarasota population, but represent 30 percent of the HIV/AIDS caseload,” Dr. Lisa Merritt wrote in an email. Dr. Merritt is teaching Public Health Disparities and Gender Issues at New College this semester.

A major aspect of the spike in HIV cases is due to an increase in the use of heroin. This is true in both Manatee County and Sarasota.

“Overdoses have already increased exponentially over 2013 and 2014 figures. There were 339 total overdose calls in all of 2013, 700 in 2014, and 630 overdose calls through the end of June here. Just in June, five of those overdose calls were listed as dead on the scene,” the Bradenton Herald reported.

At New College, HIV testing is provided for free through the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) throughout the year.

Although the drugs for HIV and AIDS are becoming more efficient, recently a company named Turning Pharmaceuticals, run by hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, made the drugs more expensive. In the past, patients would have to take handfuls of pills, but now that number has been drastically reduced. The company bought the 62-year-old drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine), which according to the New York Times is a standard in care for HIV. The company rose the price from $13.50 to $750. Making the annual cost for treatment up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This price increase was so disruptive that the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) sent Turning Pharmaceuticals a letter. IDSA explained that the medication was an integral part of treating some cancers, HIV and other autoimmune diseases.

“Please help us improve public health by immediately implementing a rational and fair pricing strategy for pyrimethamine that keeps treatment for a potentially fatal condition accessible to our patients,” the IDSA said in their letter to Turning Pharmaceuticals.

Despite ever-advancing treatment for HIV, there are still many issues that lead to an increase in the cases. This, coupled with less economically accessible medicine, could prove disastrous.

 

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