Our Commitment at Equality Florida
We are committed to combating the rate of HIV transmissions in the state of Florida, which continues to be one of the leading states on HIV transmissions. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the early 1980s, we have witnessed how HIV has disproportionately impacted the LGBTQ community. The fact that HIV has almost completely disappeared from mass media does not mean the fight is over. In fact, since 2013, HIV started sliding down the international agenda, overtaken by other issues and losing important public funding. Yet, now more than ever, it is essential that we take collective action to end HIV by the year 2030 and not lose momentum.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 1.2 million people living with HIV (PLWH) in the United States, and approximately 40,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2015 alone. While the annual number of new diagnoses fell by 19% between 2005 and 2014, progress has been uneven. For example, gay and bisexual men made up an estimated 2% of the U.S. population in 2013 but 55% of all PLWH in the United States. If current diagnosis rates continue, 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime - more specifically, 1 in 4 Latino gay and bisexual men and 1 in 2 Black gay and bisexual men will contract HIV in their lifetimes if we are unable to curb the current rates of transmission.
Transgender people have also been hit especially hard despite comprising a similarly small percentage of the U.S. population. While better data is needed to understand the full impact of HIV on the transgender community, one international analysis found that transgender women in certain communities have 49 times the odds of living with HIV than the general population. Although HIV prevalence among transgender men is relatively low (0-3%) according to the CDC, some data suggest transgender men may still be at elevated risk for HIV acquisition.
Our intention is to keep HIV and current rates of transmission at the forefront of our efforts, to elicit conversation to make necessary changes that will ensure a healthy LGBTQ community, free of stigma, misinformation, and new HIV transmissions.
Florida’s HIV Health
Florida is one of the leading states \for new HIV transmissions in the country. As of 2016, Florida ranked second for new HIV transmissions, only 15 cases behind California, despite having nearly half of the population of California. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties are experiencing the height of the epidemic, although most counties (41 out of 67) in the state saw an increase in the number transmissions. As the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, Equality Florida is committed to addressing this public health need through our HIV Advocacy Project.
In 2016, 4,957 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in Florida, which was a 6% increase from 2015. This does not count the more than 20,250 estimated people living with HIV who are unaware of their status. There are 114,772 Florida residents who are currently living with HIV. These figures are conservative because stigma and misinformation continue to be widespread, allowing for HIV transmission to continue at a steady pace.
Equality Florida is actively engaged with a broad-based coalition of organizations working towards modernizing HIV laws in our state, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Lambda Legal, SAVE, the Southern Poverty Law Center, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and the Sero Project. We are proud to partner with fellow progressive organizations committed to combating the stigma of HIV in our state. This work is made possible in part through a grant from the AIDS United Foundation and Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Staff Qualifications: Alejandro Acosta is Equality Florida’s HIV Project Coordinator. He brings his personal experience and empathy as a person living with HIV. In his role, he coordinates efforts to educate the public on HIV (advocacy, non-discrimination), train stakeholders, and present our project to different audiences. In addition, he develops educational materials and communicates about the project to the general public, as well as our members and donors.
During his 17 years as an educator, he strongly advocated for rights LGBTQ students and faculty. He later became a trainer for Sexual Health Education and LGBTQ Inclusion within Broward County Public Schools. This led him to successfully implementing a CDC program for HIV/STD testing within public middle and high schools, with a focus on Black & Latino males. During this time, he traveled across the nation sharing best practices with other school districts. Finally, he was HIV Counselor and Tester for one of South Florida’s most prominent Latino-focused HIV-prevention non-profits.
He holds an M.A.E.E. from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Alejandro is an energetic and knowledgeable public speaker with sensitivity and the candor this delicate topic needs. He has focused on HIV Prevention and Public Health for the past 5 years. He presented his work with CDC at the 2016 HIV Prevention Convention in Atlanta, GA. For the Florida LGBTQ Safe to Be Me Conference he spoke on LGBTQ inclusion and policy changes. Additionally, he was a speaker Broward’s Teen Youth Summit on the topic of Internet and education. He is currently certified as an HIV Counselor & Tester by Florida’s Department of Health.
Modernization of HIV Laws Project Alejandro Acosta is Equality Florida’s HIV Project Coordinator. He brings his personal experience and empathy as a person living with HIV. In his role, he will create the Public Education Campaign as well as present our program to stakeholders. In addition, he will collect the stories and maintain communications about the project to the general public as well as our members and donors.