Statement in Response to the Guardian Article on Gov. Rick Scott’s Rejection of $70 Million in Federal Funding to Fight Florida’s HIV/AIDS Crisis
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Jaron Benjamin. J.Benjamin@housingworks.org 347-834-1560
Jeremiah Johnson: Jeremiah.Johnson@treatmentactiongroup.org 303-910-9330
September 18th, 2019 -- The Act Now End AIDS coalition is deeply troubled by the contents of Ben Ryan’s September 11th Guardian article “'Rick Scott had us on lockdown': how Florida said no to $70m for HIV crisis”. The article, which reflects four years of investigative journalism by Ryan with additional reporting by Noah Pransky, paints a detailed picture of how Florida’s then-governor, Rick Scott, refused Medicaid expansion and federal dollars to fight the epidemic from 2015-2017, during which time the epidemic in Florida showed marked escalation. We would like to express our gratitude to the Guardian, Ryan, and Pransky for their tireless investigation into this appalling neglect.
The situation is reminiscent of the discovery in 2015 that the Fulton County Health Department in Atlanta, GA was underspending millions in CDC prevention funding, which then had to be returned to the federal government. As the new federal Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative– announced by Trump in the State of the Union– ramps up with health departments at the helm, this is a reminder of the essential role that community must play in oversight of resources and leadership within this new effort.
Uninformed politicians make poor decisions often based on scientific misinformation, inferior clinical practices, their own prejudices, or anti-federal oversight that ultimately cost lives. In 2017, according to the CDC, Florida had the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the United States, with 4,783 cases, which is 13% of the national total. According to the CDC 2017 surveillance report, nearly 70% of Floridians living with HIV are Black and/or Latinx.
We call on the State of Florida and other states, cities and municipalities endeavoring to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic to make community involvement the centerpiece of any plan. Open and honest dialogue between government officials, healthcare organizations, and the HIV/AIDS community at large about what funding exists and how it is allocated is a necessary component of fighting and ending this epidemic at the local, state and federal levels.
Disclaimer:The content of this statement does not express the views of all members of the Act Now: End AIDS coalition or our government partners.
About ACT NOW: END AIDS
ACT NOW: END AIDS is a national coalition of community-based organizations, health departments, and national organizations committed to ending AIDS as an epidemic in the United States. The coalition hosts learning collaboratives to share key practices; works to have Ending the Epidemic (EtE) become part of the national discourse with key decision makers; and supports health departments across the country with technical assistance in the writing and implementation of EtE plans and processes.