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Health department responds to Tampa Bay Times report on changes to HIV stats

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The Florida Department of Health is pushing back on a report by the Tampa Bay Times over the weekend that said health department had removed hundreds of HIV cases from the books.

The newspaper found that the department’s division of disease control lowered the number of HIV cases from 6,147 to 4,613 in 2014. The report found that the state occasional updates the numbers, and doesn’t consider the data final until July when it is reported. However, the Tampa Bay Times found the revision was the largest of any going back to 2009.

On Saturday, the Florida Department of Health shot back.

“Preventing transmission of HIV in Florida is extremely important to the department which is why we actively work with communities to conduct targeted outreach and testing and to link patients to treatment quickly,” said Interim State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip in a statement Saturday. “Unfortunately, this article does not highlight any of the efforts of the department and our numerous community partners and rather presents cherry-picked data to fit a predetermined conclusion. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Tampa Bay Times the entire data gathering and deduplication process to clear up the misconceptions presented in the article.”

The health department said the adjustments were consistent with those made in previous years.

Florida’s climbing HIV numbers have been an issue for months. Lawmakers pointed to the growing numbers during then-Surgeon General John Armstrong’s confirmation hearings, peppering Armstrong with questions about the issues. The Senate did not confirm Armstrong.

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