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Florida Tackles HIV Transmission with Free PrEP in 2018

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jan 11, 2018
Florida Tackles HIV Transmission with Free PrEP in 2018
  (Source:Paul Sakuma/AP )

It sounds too good - and too sensible - to be true, but multiple news sources confirm it: Florida has committed to providing free PrEP this year. Short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, the proactive drug regimen, marketed in the United States under the name Truvada, helps protect HIV-negative users by blocking the virus' ability to replicate.

The Human Rights Campaign picked up on the news at its website, where it quoted HRC HIV 360° Fellow Daniel Dower as saying, "Florida providing free PrEP in all 67 of its local county health departments is significant because it provides those who are most at-risk for HIV, but are uninsured, another tool in their HIV prevention toolbox that they did not have before."

Despite perceptions that Southern states are biased against gays, the HRC article noted a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found the South disproportionately affected by new cases of HIV. "Southern states accounted for more than half of new HIV diagnoses in 2016," the CDC observed, "while making up 38% of the national population." Even among Southern states Florida stands out in terms of HIV cases, having come in second in the nation for new HIV cases in 2015.

Florida's initiative promises to arm more people with an effective means to combat HIV transmission, but that doesn't mean that the struggle to overcome health disparities for the poor, prison inmates, and members of the LGBTQ community is over. Such inequity contributes to the problem; as the HRC article points out, "Despite being available since 2012, PrEP usage remains low in the U.S., with approximately 145,000 active prescriptions." The slowness to adopt PrEP isn't limited to the United States, however; an ABC News story reported that low usage of PrEP is a global problem.

The Florida program was ordered by the state's surgeon general, Celeste Philips. Just prior to the start of the new year, Orlando Weekly reported that Florida Department of Health spokesperson Mara Gambineri issued a statement in which she said, "Ensuring PrEP to those at highest risk for HIV infection, regardless of their ability to pay, is one of the four key components of the agency's plan to eliminate HIV transmission and reduce HIV-related deaths."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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