AIDS Healthcare Foundation opens new St. Petersburg healthcare center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St. Petersburg | The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) opened its newest health care center June 25 in St. Petersburg to combat Florida’s growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The Los Angeles-based AHF is a global nonprofit organization and the nation’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care. Its new healthcare center will provide services to patients regardless of their ability to pay and is located in the organization’s local flagship facility in the Skyway Marina District, first opened in May 2017. The facility also houses AHF’s pharmacy and their fundraising thrift store Out of the Closet, chosen as organization grand marshal for the 2018 St. Pete Pride parade.

“The need for medical care and services for HIV/AIDS patients in St. Petersburg remains significant, with both Florida and St. Petersburg repeatedly landing at the top of HIV and/or AIDS incidence and rates nationally,” AHF Tampa Bay Medical Director Dr. Jeanette Cancel shared ahead of the official opening. “I am honored to partner with AHF as we expand the reach in delivering quality care and medical services to HIV/AIDS patients at this new, state-of-the-art facility in St. Petersburg.”

AHF hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate their St. Petersburg expansion, where Cancel was joined at the podium by AHF President Michael Weinstein, Southern Bureau Chief Michael Kahane and other AHF leadership. St. Petersburg Police Department LGBT liaison Markus Hughee, city LGBTQ liaison Jim Nixon, Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch and other community leaders also spoke, thanking AHF for their commitment to St. Petersburg.

“Many people don’t realize, if you look at the landscape of HIV in the world… numbers of new infections are either going down or they’re stable,” Weinstein said at the ceremony. “One of the few places in this country where the numbers continue to go up is in Florida. We are standing at the epicenter of HIV in North America.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Southern states account for approximately 44 percent of all U.S. citizens living with an HIV diagnosis, and Florida ranks No. 1 in newly diagnosed cases nationwide. In 2015, the agency determined that St. Petersburg ranked No. 15 nationally in terms of cities with cases of a new HIV diagnosis.

“I believe that if you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” Weinstein said. “The reality is that what we’re doing now in Florida isn’t enough, and unless we come up with some new strategies and devote some new resources, we’re going to continue to see the growth of HIV in Florida and in St. Pete.”

Weinstein added that part of AHF’s strategy to combat the epidemic is to “bring services as close to the people as possible,” noting that no patient seeking care would be turned away. “At this center we talk about the circle of care. What that means is we do prevention… we have HIV testing, we have STD testing, we have HIV primary care and we have a pharmacy. So you can get all your needs met in one place.

“I hope that if I return here two years from now, five years from now, this place is bustling with client health,” Weinstein concluded. “We’re going to be here as long as we are needed and it’s a privilege to be a part of this community.”

AHF’s new healthcare center is located at 3404 26th Street in St. Petersburg and is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 727-318-6880.

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