South Florida has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new HIV cases.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks the South Florida metro area as number one for HIV diagnoses in 2015.
According to the CDC report, the national average for HIV diagnoses is about 12 cases per 100,000 people.
In Miami, it’s 51 cases.
Dr. Cheryl Holder is with Florida International University’s college of medicine and she specializes in HIV care.
“We have a gap here of getting people who are infected to come and get tested and hopefully get them on treatment,” Holder said.
And this is important, Holder explains, because when people are getting treated, they don’t have as much of the virus in their systems and they’re less likely to spread it around.
Along with the usual risk factors like poverty and access to care, Miami has to deal with the fact that not every public health campaign works with every community:
“You have to take into account the culture and the language,” Holder said. “It makes HIV prevention more expensive.”
Holder said stigma is a bigger barrier here than in places like San Francisco with more open communities of people with HIV. To work around the stigma here, her clinic sometimes has to schedule family members on different days.
“I have siblings and they have to make sure they come on different days because they haven’t told each other,” Holder said.
And overcoming that isn’t easy.