Florida has four cities on the top 10 list of cities with the most new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state has now denied a Medicaid contract that helps cover the cost of treatment for those who could not otherwise afford it, according to HIV/AIDS advocates.
Supporters of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, also know as AHF, protested outside the Hispanic Office for Local Assistance in Orlando Tuesday. They chose the location because many Puerto Ricans who recently moved to Orlando visit the office for assistance, but those who are HIV positive may not get the assistance they need, according to protestors.
Michael Kahane, the Southern Bureau Chief for AHF, said Gov. Rick Scott made promises to the Puerto Rican community that if they move to Florida after Hurricane Maria, they were going to be taken care of.
“Yet now Puerto Ricans living with HIV and AIDS are having their health care disrupted,” Kahane said.
AHF is the world’s largest nonprofit AIDS service organization.
For years, AHF has provided Positive Healthcare, which is health insurance for those living with HIV in Florida who otherwise couldn’t afford it, according to Kahane.
This year, however, the state denied the Medicaid contract, which funds the plan, according to Kahane — meaning those who were once covered could see a disruption in treatment.
“If people’s care is disrupted, they don’t have access to their medications they’re no longer virally suppressed, they’re going to be passing the virus along to others,” he said.
According to the CDC, Florida is at the top of the list of states with the most new HIV infections. Experts said one reason is because many who are infected don’t get treatment.
Imara Canady is a spokesperson for AHF.
“Without insurance that covers HIV meds, the average HIV medication on a monthly basis for a 30-day supply could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 a month,” Canady said.
Kahane said the situation could get worse.
“We’re in the state that has four of the top 10 cities for highest new infections in the entire country under Gov. Scott’s watch,” he said. “Instead of protecting the public health, it’s going to add to new infection rates. It’s just completely ridiculous,” he said.
News 6 contacted the governor’s office for comment, but did not get a response.