TALLAHASSEE–Social worker and HIV patient Michael Rajner traveled to Tallahassee on Tuesday to attend the confirm hearing for Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong. Rajner, who has been living with HIV/AIDS for the past 20 years, was prepared to testify against Dr. Armstrong’s appointment. After driving all the way across the state from Broward County, Rajner learned that the hearing had been postponed. Because he had traveled such a long distance, he was allowed to speak and presented a compelling cases against Florida’s current plan to treat HIV/AIDS patients.
Speaking against the nomination of Surgeon General John Armstrong, Rajner said that Armstrong “had cloaked the Sunshine State in darkness, as Florida shamefully leads the nation in HIV infection rate. I am personally outraged by Dr. Armstrong and Gov. Scott’s silence and void leadership to place a higher priority on the state’s HIV crisis,” Rajner said.
“At the time we are at the beginning of an era of a functional cure, it is unconscionable for our surgeon general and governor to bury their heads in the sand. In states like New York, they recently released a blueprint strategy to end AIDS in the state of New York. In Florida, we’ve done away with any kind of blueprint, and we’ve seen an increase in new cases of the disease as the governor’s office and the surgeon general refused to allow health departments to apply directly for funds to the CDC to gain access to moneys that were guaranteed to come here. Those funds amount to $10 million for HIV prevention,” Rajner said. “It’s a crisis that is growing in counties like Broward and Miami Dade. Their silence on the state’s HIV/AIDS crisis is reminiscent of President Reagan’s refusal to utter the word ‘AIDS.’
“Neither Florida Gov. Rick Scott, nor Dr. John Armstrong, his surgeon general, have ever been heard entering a dialogue with the HIV/AIDS community. Armstrong is even reported to have most recently fired Dr. Sterling Whisenhunt, the bureau chief of communicable diseases, for criticizing the Florida Department of Health’s own abstinence to exercise the political will to act responsibly to reduce new HIV infections.
“As a person living with HIV/AIDS, I often hear from other Floridians struggling to access care, treatment and supportive services. Often these individuals express feeling lost or completely forgotten, and it’s a tragedy when the best solution our government can come up with is a patchwork of safety-net programs full of holes, and it fails to expand access to Medicaid as a way to link people to lifesaving health care.”
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