Florida leads the nation in new HIV infections, but it’s not being treated as a crisis by Gov. Rick Scott or the state’s top health officer, Dr. John Armstrong. As the disease has spread, Scott and Armstrong have imposed four years of personnel cuts in the Department of Health that have shrunk the size of county health departments. State lawmakers are now asking whether the spending decisions have produced a sicker population in a state where HIV infections have risen each year since 2012 as they’ve declined across the country.
Miami-Dade and Broward were Nos. 1 and 2 in the U.S. in new HIV infections in 2014 per 100,000 residents, according to state and federal data. Armstrong said Florida is spending a record $34 million on HIV and AIDS prevention this year, thanks to a federal grant. He did not dispute the rise in infections. “Staff reductions did not impact the surveillance, education, prevention, counseling, testing, care and treatment of HIV/AIDS patients,” he said in a statement. But some advocates say Armstrong is part of the problem because he rarely talks about HIV or AIDS and instead places greater emphasis on fighting childhood obesity. FULL REPORT