President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address on Tuesday vowed to “eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”
“Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach,” Trump said. “Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”
It is an astonishing declaration for someone who has suggested cutting tens of millions of dollars from federal HIV/AIDS programs in his previous budget. A day after the unforeseen announcement, officials couldn’t say how much his 2020 budget would devote to tackling this public health crisis.
His administration on Wednesday, however insisted that Trump wants to make this a priority with a goal of reducing new cases by 75% in five years and 90% in ten years. They promised the budget would encompass a considerable amount that won’t come from other healthcare priorities.
The Department of Health and Human Services has pinpointed 48 counties where about half of all new HIV cases in the country were reported. The agency has intentions to aggressively target those counties to help them in identifying new cases of HIV/AIDS and treat patients and also to avoid spreading the disease.
Florida is central to the fight. Seven of the targeted counties are in Florida, more than any other state except California. The counties are: Pinellas, Hillsborough, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Duval and Miami-Dade.
Agency officials said the Federal Health Agencies will work with nonprofits, governments, providers and advocacy groups to address the fundamental causes behind the spread of the disease. The approach may be different for each community.
On a phone call with reporters on Wednesday, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci said: “It is not one size fits all and we realize that.”
For years Florida has been at the center of the hike in cases of HIV and AIDS, while other states have seen a reduction. According to a 2018 Center for Disease Control report Miami–Fort Lauderdale–West Palm Beach had the highest rate of infection in the country where 1 in 1,000 people have HIV or AIDS. The Orlando metro rated sixth, and Jacksonville was ninth.
The Tampa Bay region also ranked high (22). The death rate for males diagnosed with the disease was higher here than almost anywhere else in the country.