By Rielle Creighton

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – At ground zero for new HIV infections, Miami-Dade County is about to become the beginning of a new collaboration.

“Being the gateway to Latin America it’s also the gateway to many infectious diseases of which HIV is at the very top of that,” Carlos Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Healthcare System.

Public health officials alongside Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nunez held a press conference Monday to announce a new initiative which will involve the opening of a dialogue with leaders from across the state and country aimed at ending the HIV epidemic.

It’s part of President Trumps plan to reduce HIV infections across the country by 90% over the next decade.

Forty-eight jurisdictions, including San Juan, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, are being targeted for aggressive new strategies and surveillance, seven are in Florida. All were chosen because they have the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation.

“Our focus is working with the CDC and making sure that county health departments have the tools, regardless of their insurance status, to make sure they have the access to care,’ said Nunez.

“HIV is not a partisan issue, but a very problematic health concern that affects our communities greatly,” said Nuñez.

“With assistance from our federal partners at CDC, we are confident that the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative will reduce HIV transmission in our state. I am grateful to see this collaboration and I know that working together, we can conquer the HIV epidemic here in Florida and elsewhere. We must collectively continue to promote advocacy, research and progress to pave the way for a healthier Florida.”

Officials say the goal is to meet people where they are, with things like mobile testing vans and referrals to care that don’t require a doctor, especially for at-risk populations which less than two-thirds are currently receiving treatment.

“To help individuals get diagnosed, get them into treatment, you get virally suppressed, not only does that mean you’re now going to live a near normal lifetime, but it also means you’re no longer able to transmit the virus to somebody else,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control.

There are over a 115,000 individuals in Florida currently living with HIV, the state has 12.5 percent of all new infections nationwide and officials say that rate is going up. In 2017 there were over 4,900 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Florida, a three percent increase from 2016.

“If we do nothing, we’re getting about 40 thousand new infections a year, that means we’ll get about 400,000 in this nation that will be infected in the next 10 years, this goal is basically to bring that to an end,” said Dr. Redfield.

Rielle Creighton

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