August South Florida AIDS Network Report

The South Florida AIDS Network (SFAN) functions as the networking and advisory body for the Florida-Department of Health, Ryan White Care (FL-DOH RWC) grant in Broward County. Its monthly meetings are open to the public.

Dr. Jeffrey Beale, of the HIV Section, Florida Department of Health reported on universal treatment, routine HIV testing, PEP, and PrEP.

He reported changes in recommended times to start anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Dr. Beale described the new practice as “voluntary universal treatment”. People living with HIV (PWLH) should now start ART as soon as possible, even immediately after their first positive test results. Prior to this change, a low CD4 immune cell count signaled the need to begin ART. 

Early ART improves the heath of the individual, and reduces the risk of transmission. In one study, researchers compared median times of two groups to achieve a suppressed viral load. One group began ART, based on low counts of CD4 immune cells. The universal treatment group started earlier. The universal treatment group had a median time to viral suppression of 1.9 months. The low CD4 cell count group had a median time to viral suppression of 4.2 months. Viral suppression is the goal of ART treatment.

Related: Intl. AIDS Conference Returns to Durban to Define Path Toward Ending AIDS

Scientists estimate that about 13 percent of PLWH lack awareness of their HIV infection. They constitute the unaware infected. Routine HIV testing can identify the unaware infected and can link them to treatment.

The behavior of many women does not put them at risk for HIV, but the behavior of their male partner does. As these women may underestimate their actual risk, they may underestimate their need for HIV testing. Routine testing could greatly benefit these women.

Dr. Beal reported that routine HIV testing has failed to occur. In an analysis of health insurance data, researchers found no evidence for routine screenings. Only 4.3 percent of Medicaid claims and 2.8 percent of private insurance claims indicated HIV testing. 

Data also indicates a need for increased education among doctors about PEP and PrEP. About one-third of U.S. doctors lack knowledge about PrEP, which limits their patient’s choices. Dr. Beal reported that a PEP hotline and a PrEP hotline had become available for clinicians. People seeking either PrEP or PEP may advise their doctors to call these hotlines, if their doctors lack familiarity with either PEP or PrEP.

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SFAN voted to retain its current representatives to the Florida Comprehensive Planning Network (FCPN), with Kim Saiswick as the representative and Joey Wynn as an alternate.

Justin Bell reported on FL-DOH-RWC’s changes to its bus pass program. Daily bus passes will replace monthly passes. Broward County has a monthly bus pass program for low-income Broward residents. FL-DOH-RWC will help eligible clients navigate the County’s bus pas program This change could save enough money to fund van transportation for clients with mobility issues.

The Hep C Treatment Pilot Program has openings for people who meet the ADAP eligibility requirements. The program will provide Viekira Pak and Harvoni. A doctor has to request participation for their patient to enroll.

Announcements

Clinicians can call the PEP hotline (888-448-4911) seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Clinicians can call the PrEP hotline (855-488-7737) Monday through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on PrEP or PEP including how to pay for it, people can email Dr. Robert Shore (Department of Health) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call him at 954-467-4700 Ext. 5733. People can also call Patrick Whiteside of the Pride Center at 954-463-9005, Ext. 210.

Next SFAN Meeting:  Friday, September 9, 2016, at 10:00 a.m., at the Holy Cross Healthplex, 1000 NE 56th Street, Ft. Lauderdale. Newcomers are encouraged to attend.


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