Florida currently ranks as the state with the second-highest number of HIV diagnoses. California and Texas come in 1st and 3rd respectively, on the Centers for Disease Control’s 2016 Top 10 States with the highest number of HIV diagnoses.
In 2018, the CDC reported 4,957 HIV diagnoses in the state of Florida .
“In terms of HIV patients, we have a few thousand living in Lee County,” said Dr. Yeneneh Desta, medical director at the Island Coast AIDS Network in Fort Myers.
Between the years of 2015 and 2017, Lee County had a rate of 13.2 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to the state’s average of 23.8, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Dr. Desta is hopeful that the preventative drug, Truvada will help stop the spread of HIV. Unfortunately, Dr. Desta said most Southwest Floridians aren’t aware the drug is available.
“The reason why more people don’t know about it is it’s relatively new. I wouldn’t blame or fault someone who didn’t have this information. Even some doctors have no clue at all," Dr. Desta said.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada in 2012 to help reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Commonly known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, the drug was initially approved eight years prior as a treatment of HIV-1 infection in adults.
Currently, Truvada is the only approved medication for HIV prevention, according to the Florida Department of Health. However, it’s important to know this pill does not protect you from contracting other sexually transmitted diseases, like gonorrhea or chlamydia.
The Center for Disease Control provided additional details about Truvada on its YouTube channel.