ORLANDO, Fla. — HIV cases in Orange County are rising so rapidly, a state lawmaker is calling it a public health crisis.

New numbers released by the Florida Department of Health show that while Orange County has the third-largest number of new HIV cases, it has the fastest growing rate of new cases between 2015 and 2017, at 22.8 percent.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the top two counties for new HIV-case numbers. But between 2015 and 2017, Broward's rate rose by 11.9 percent, while Miami-Dade’s rate dropped by 11 percent.

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County is now making a major push to educate people about HIV.

"It is very shocking. The numbers are increasing over the years. We’re seeing a trend here in Central Florida,” spokesman Kent Donahue said Wednesday.

According to the AIDSVU website, which collects and analyzes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies, HIV transmission through injection drug-use is growing.

Now, state Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando) is calling opioid-related HIV cases a public health crisis.

Plasencia has co-sponsored a bill (HB 171) that would legalize needle exchange programs in Florida, in which people can bring used needles and receive clean ones in return. A pilot program is already underway in Miami.

"When you pass around those dirty needles, you pass around whatever disease you may be carrying at the time. If you have the opportunity to give someone a clean needle, then you’re going to reduce the rate of infectious diseases,” Plasencia said.

The program in Miami is funded entirely by nonprofit donations. Plasencia hopes that if the bill passes in both the House and Senate, more needle exchange programs will open later this year.

In Orange County, health officials hope the number of new HIV cases not only opens people's eyes, but also changes their behavior.

“Get tested — know your status. The more you know about your status, the better,” Donahue said.

Every county health department in Florida offers HIV testing as well as treatment and prevention programs.

One medication offered by county health officials is called PrEP, which is a daily pill for those who are HIV- free. When taken properly, a person's risk of contracting HIV is reduced by up to 92 percent.