ASAP’s Home 3050 opens as CDC releases startling new HIV study

By : Jeremy Williams
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Empath Health’s AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) opened Home 3050, an all-under-one-roof HIV/AIDS care and services location, just as a new CDC study named Florida one of the top states most likely to have increased HIV cases.

“This study was put together from a highly respected group of people with many, many years of work in HIV/AIDS,” ASAP’s Executive Director William Harper says. “This is the first comprehensive study that was put together on the lifetime chances of individuals getting an HIV diagnosis.”

The CDC study not only breaks down the chances of an individual getting an HIV diagnosis by state, but more alarmingly, breaks down the odds based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

“The numbers are a little frightening,” Harper says. “The current statistics has one in six Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) being diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. The risks vary significantly when it comes to race and ethnicity: With black MSM, it is one in two and in Latino MSM one in four, compared to one in 11 in white MSM.”

Harper says one of the main reasons for the drastic differences in the odds based on race and ethnicity have to do with the stigma of being gay and HIV in the prominently religious black and Hispanic communities, a stigma that he says ASAP is working to remove.

“We are seeing a turn in the stigma. We have created relationships with many black churches in the area, which is exciting cause they are letting us come in and test, they have let us come in an educate, so we are helping to flip that stigma a bit, but it is still quite large,” he says.

Florida was among one of the worst states in the CDC study. While many point to Florida’s increasing population and more people getting tested as possible factors for the rise in HIV infections, other states with similar populations and ethnic and racial backgrounds, such as California and New York, have far lower odds of individual’s contracting HIV.

“It comes to the expanded Medicaid I think,” Harper says. “California has done a wonderful job with expanding Medicaid and offering healthcare to their people. Same thing goes for New York. Florida is just behind the times in providing these opportunities for more medical care.”

Unlike California and New York, Florida did not choose to expand Medicaid as a part of the federal Affordable Care Act. This makes the opening of Home 3050 all the more important in Tampa Bay.

Home 3050 offers primary care, HIV specialty care, pharmacy, counseling, HIV and STD testing, support groups and more. Harper hopes having all the support and services a person with a recent HIV diagnosis would need in one location will help them to be more proactive in their own personal health.

“A lot of people don’t bother looking for treatment or assistance because they don’t think they can find or afford it,” he says.

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