More than 100 march outside Gov. Scott’s home over HIV health care changes

Published: July 18, 2018 7:20 PM EDT

More than 100 people marched outside Governor Rick Scott’s Naples home Wednesday.

The protestors say he’s denying critical health care coverage to those living with HIV.  Melissa Shannon, whom was diagnosed in 2003 said, “I was diagnosed with HIV when I found out I was pregnant with her. And I thank god that she was born negative.”

She’s one of nearly 136,000 people living with HIV in the state, according to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).

“I wanted to ended my life,” Shannon said, about first being diagnosed, “I didn’t know anything about it. I thought it was a death sentence.”

But she said she’s alive because of healthcare that is now no longer an option.

“I’m hurt cause you’re taking away healthcare and treatment from patients that need it,” Shannon said.

The healthcare Shannon and the protesters are talking about is “Positive Healthcare” which serves about 2,000 people.

Governor Scott didn’t renew the state’s contract with them. There are other providers, but AHF says this was the only non-profit with insurance coverage.

Imara Canady, AHF Southern Bureau Communications Director said, “What it really sounds like is business as usual and putting for-profits over the people.”

Governor Scott’s office said in a statement: “It’s totally false to say that HIV services are being reduced. Florida is actually doing the opposite. The HIV services that this vendor is referring to are being continued and offered throughout the entire state, not just the three counties they serve. This vendor’s actions have nothing to do with helping patients – this is just about a private vendor being upset that the state will be contracting with someone else to do more for this vulnerable population.”

The governor’s office says there will be counseling services available to help HIV patients on the Positive Healthcare plan to find a new healthcare provider.