By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Thanks to a continual education of the public and increased preventative measure over the years, St. Lucie County was able to report a continuing decrease in newly reported HIV cases.
"I believe our county health department staff and our community partners deserve a lot of credit for working hard to make this happen," said Larry Lee, the St. Lucie County Health Officer and state representative.
In 2012, only 52 new HIV infection cases were reported, compared to 114 in 2005. In the past eight years, the new infection cases have decreased by 54 percent.
The results are a combination of education and prevention.
In the county, HIV testing has increased by almost 50 percent since 2006.
"When we identify new positives early in their infection and link them into our system of services, people will live longer," said Dawn Jones, the HIV/AIDS program coordinator for the St. Lucie County health department. "Remember, early detection is the key."
Also significant is the number of African Americans who have died from the disease has decreased in the county as well. Since 2011, the number has declined 62 percent.
"There was a time that St. Lucie County was number one in the state with the highest prevalence rate among African Americans living with HIV/AIDS," said Arlease Hall, spokesperson for the St. Lucie County Health Department. "This is excellent news for our community."
While the numbers have gone down, there is still a serious epidemic among the African American population in St. Lucie County. Of the new cases reported last year, 56 percent of the people were African American.
"I am proud of the work that St. Lucie County has done to reduce their rates," said Sherry Riley, program administrator for the HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Program for the Florida Department of Health. "There is a tremendous amount of work left to be done in St. Lucie County; however, this proves that community mobilization works."