The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has proposed an initiative to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within the next decade.

This program will leverage critical scientific advances in HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care by coordinating highly successful programs, resources and infrastructure within many HHS agencies and offices.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is committed to providing the community with opportunities to understand, explore and plan for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Pinellas County is one of seven counties with the highest rates of HIV in Florida. In 2018, there was a 12.8% increase in new HIV cases among the black population. This population made up almost half (42%) of the new HIV infections for 2018. In addition, the top five ZIP Codes with the highest number of new HIV cases are in the city of St. Petersburg.

To improve understanding of community needs, programs and delivery strategies, DOH-Pinellas has created an Ending the HIV Epidemic Advisory Council. This council will have the specific task of providing input and advisement of the End HIV Epidemic Plan for Pinellas County.

To be effective, local officials say it is critical that community members, health providers and stakeholders across the county have an opportunity to contribute to this planning process. The EHEAC will meet quarterly. Those who would like to participate can email Indica Harris at Indica.Harris@flhealth.gov or Darius Lightsey at Darius.Lightsey@flhealth.gov.

The next EHEAC meeting is Wednesday, March 25, 6-8 p.m., at EPIC (Empath Partners in Care), 3050 First Ave. S., St. Petersburg.