Three Central Florida Democrats serving in Congress–U.S. Reps. Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto–announced on Friday morning that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded more than $10 million to Orange County “to help individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS access medical care and other critical support services.”
The funds come from a grant through HHS’s HIV Emergency Relief Program and will provide “direct financial assistance to areas where the funding will make the greatest difference in the fight against HIV.”
“This grant is a massive win for Orange County and a light of hope for thousands of HIV-positive individuals in Central Florida. Incredible advancements in medical science can extend lives, suppress symptoms, and reduce the risks of transmission, but access to these treatments is not evenly distributed,” said Demings. “This grant will help us to build comprehensive systems to care for all members of our community, including those who have had limited access to it in the past. I look forward to continuing our work to ensure that every person with HIV/AIDS has access to comprehensive treatment and, eventually, a cure.”
“I’m pleased to join my colleagues in announcing this large investment in Orange County, which will help individuals, families, and communities affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Murphy. “Central Florida has made great strides in the fight against HIV over the years, and I have no doubt these federal dollars will support the lifesaving work being done in our community. This grant will help us reduce infection rates and provide greater access to support services that can help those affected by HIV live longer and healthier lives.”
“We are pleased to announce Orange County received a generous federal grant to assist individuals and families living with HIV. Just a few years ago, Florida had the second highest rate of HIV diagnoses, with the Orlando metro-area ranking sixth among U.S. cities for the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses,” said Soto. Together, we can change these trends. This grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the first critical step to enhancing access to HIV care for our region. I join my colleagues in the continued advocacy for HIV prevention, not just in Central Florida, but across the country.”
The three Central Florida Democrats pointed to numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau which found around 10,000-12,000 residents of the Orlando area with HIV or AIDS. In 2015, Orlando was ranked sixth in the nation when it came to new HIV diagnoses.
“According to HHS, the HIV Emergency Relief Program provides direct financial assistance to Eligible Metropolitan Areas and Transitional Grant Areas that have been the most severely affected by the HIV epidemic. The grant helps enhance access to high quality, community-based care for individuals and families with HIV and supports strategies to reach minority populations,” Murphy’s office noted on Friday morning.