With Florida continuing to suffer at the hands of HIV, having one of the highest rates of infection in the United States, and some counties being hit particularly hard by an increasing amount of cases, Historic City News has found that, generally, the rate of new cases in St Johns County has been one of the lowest in the state.
We recently reported that new facilities are being opened to help address drug abuse — the hope is that HIV and AIDS cases will remain at a minimum.
However, infection rates in other areas of the state are continuing to rise, and given how easy the infection is to spread, there is the increasing need for all counties to take the appropriate preventative measures.
According to organizations monitoring the rate of HIV in the country as a whole, the virus is now prevalent in every state in the US as of last year. This is a first for the US, but Florida in particular is seeing extremely high rates of infection, ranking in the top ten of states with the most reported cases.
The increase of the virus has led to real concern that the younger generations are not being adequately informed about the potential dangers. This has been attributed to the lack of engagement by the media and education system to some degree, as the issue is rarely discussed in public forums or during school. Broward county is one of the worst affected in Florida, with over 15,000 cases reported, second only to Dade County — which saw over 25,000 reports last year.
While these figures are, of course, concerning; the real issue is the prevalence rate. Some smaller counties, such as Union County, have seen a huge increase in prevalence rates, despite having a much lower rate of reported cases. This goes on to further reinforce the need for more public awareness, and education, especially in the young.
The main focus of Broward County recently has been to increase the scope of sex education programs, and make sure that HIV/AIDS facts and information are included in the process. Interestingly, this move brings a renewed focus on another area of controversy that Florida has been subject to in the past. The State is well known for it’s ‘Abstinence Until Marriage’ education policy, and has turned down around $15 million in funding and grants that were offered to increase the scope of education programs, specifically evidence based sexual health education. While the Florida Department of Health has an extensive list of resources and guides on HIV and AIDS online, the general lack of awareness of the virus itself implies that many are in fact unaware they may have the virus until it’s too late. Once again, this lends strong credence to the need to increase public education where HIV is concerned.
In fact, HIV is not the only sexually transmitted disease to increase in the state. In the last ten years, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis have all risen across Florida as a whole, and across individual counties in correspondence. Making sure that the younger generations, and adults alike, are made aware of the facts about STDs as a whole, as well as making use of confidential procedures if someone suspects they may have contracted one of these diseases is likely to be crucial to lowering infection rates. Following Broward’s lead in preventative measures and education could soon be a very real necessity for all counties in the State, especially districts wanting to preserve and further reduce their already smaller rates of prevalence.
While lack of proper education about the dangers of HIV is certainly attributable to the rise in infection across the country, as a whole, in states such a Florida, there is also some cautiously positive news to take from recent figures.
Firstly, it is important to understand that a rise in the prevalence of HIV was to be expected, to some extent, due to the longer life expectancy of sufferers who are receiving treatments that have become more effective. However, although AIDS related deaths may be on the decrease, and this prevalence has been expected to some degree, the resulting action remains the same: More preventative measures, and treatments must be made available. While an individuals chance is much better than previous years if diagnosed with HIV, the battle is far from over, and will only be won by open, honest discussion about the virus, and related issues.