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Responding to congressional HIV questions, state points to website


Interim state Surgeon General Celeste Philip on Friday responded to a letter from 11 members of Congress demanding an explanation of how Florida changed its count of new HIV cases.

The members of Congress, which include Republicans and Democrats from across the state, wrote to Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week asking about why the Florida Department of Health revised the number of new infections reported in 2014 from 6,147 to 4,613.

That 25-percent change was much larger than adjustments made in recent years, a Tampa Bay Times analysis found. It was made as the state faced criticism for a spike in HIV cases, particularly in South Florida, which led the nation for new infections.

Philip directed the members of Congress to the HIV Data Center, a website launched Thursday that explains the basics of a process known as "de-duplication." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she wrote, comb through data reported from every state and try to identify possible duplicate cases, but the states are ultimately responsible for ensuring their case numbers are accurate.

She also said she is "happy to sit down and more closely explore the data with you at any time."

However, Philip did not provide details requested by the members of Congress about how the Department of Health's process for removing duplicate cases has changed, or specifics about how each infection was reclassified or removed.

The Times has been asking for this information since March and has not received an answer either.

A spike in reported HIV cases was among the reasons Surgeon General John Armstrong was not confirmed by the Florida Senate earlier this year. In the aftermath of Times reporting on the state's revised data, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, called for a federal investigation.