MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Jairo Farinas had a big scare not long ago – he thought he may have contracted HIV.
“I was unknowingly exposed, but thankfully I still remain negative,” Farinas said. “And the reason why is because the person was HIV positive but undetectable, meaning that their levels of the virus was so low that it cannot infect anybody.”
Farinas is now on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves taking one pill a day to block HIV infection.
PrEP is one of the newer breakthroughs in HIV prevention, and it’s something that people in South Florida should learn more about.
“Miami-Dade is still number one in the nation when it comes to new HIV infection,” Farinas said, “which is scary considering a small little county against the entire United States, we’re number one!”
Dr. Mary Jo Trepka is an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University.
“We have the highest rate among all urban areas of the country,” she said, citing newly released CDC statistics. “With in that, Miami is the highest, followed by Fort Lauderdale, followed by West Palm Beach.
She said the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in South Florida is alarming. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area is number one in new infection rates, followed by Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“The rate for Miami-Dade is three times higher than for all urban areas in the entire United States,” Dr. Trepka said.
According to the CDC, 1 in every 100 people in both Miami-Dade and Broward is living with HIV. That has big implications down the road.
“As we continue to get more and more HIV infection it means higher risk for everybody,” Dr. Trepka said.
On this World AIDS Day, the focus is prevention. The key to stopping it: protection, diagnosis and treatment.
“We have a lot of people living with HIV who are not virally suppressed, that is they are not treated,” she explained. “If they were treated, they wouldn’t be infectious and we could help to bring down the rate of new infection.”
There are several World AIDS Day events going on South Florida Thursday night.
FIU is hosting a block party and vigil from 7 to 10 p.m. at 11200 SW 8th Street between Panther Hall and Parkview.
In Wilton Manors, a World AIDS Day walk of remembrance begins at Hagen Park at 7 p.m. and ends at the Pride Center at Equality Park on Dixie Highway.
To learn more about HIV prevention, click here.