This press release published at the request of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.
The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is informing residents that June 27, 2019, commemorates National HIV Testing Day (NHTD). First observed in 1995, NHTD is meant to encourage people to be aware of their HIV status so that they can take control of their health. This year’s theme, “Doing It My Way,” highlights how and why people make testing a part of their lives. DOH- Alachua joins community partners across the country to emphasize the importance of getting tested, knowing one’ status, and getting linked to care and treatment.
Local HIV Testing Day events this week include:
June 26 – Santa Fe College (3000 N.W. 83rd Street, Gainesville), from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
June 26 – Sexual Education Presentation, Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church (510 N.E. 15th St, Gainesville), from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
June 27 – Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church (510 N.E. 15th St, Gainesville), from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
June 27 – University Club (18 E. University Ave, Gainesville), from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
June 28 – St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (111 N. Francis St, Interlachen), from 8 a.m. to noon
“Getting tested is the first step in taking care of your health and controlling the spread of HIV,” said Florida Department of Health in Alachua County Administrator Paul Myers. “Once you know your status, you can make informed decisions about your health. If you are positive, we can help get you into care and on HIV medications to improve your health and reduce the chance that you will transmit the virus to your partners. If you are negative, we can provide education and resources to maintain your status, including information about our PrEP clinic.”
Community Initiatives at WellFlorida Council Director Lindsey Redding said, “WellFlorida Council’s HIV High Impact Prevention Program (HIP) will be offering free HIV testing from June 25th to June 28th, in honor of National HIV Testing Day. Take the first step and get tested for HIV.”
For more information on the HIP and free local testing opportunities, visit the Everyone’s Doing It website.
In 2017, 116,944 Floridians were confirmed to be living with HIV. An estimated 18,000 more were living with HIV but unaware of it. “To see these numbers come down in our state, we need to recognize the role of stigma as a barrier to getting tested,” said department HIV/AIDS Section Administrator Laura Reeves. “Normalizing HIV testing and making sure there’s a testing option that works for everyone is one way to reduce stigma. This is important because knowing your HIV status gives you the power to make informed decisions about your health. Our goal is to work with our partners to make sure every Floridian has that power.”
DOH-Alachua is informing residents that there is more than one type of HIV test. Most use either a blood sample or fluid swabbed from the inside of your cheek. There are different settings in which residents can take an HIV test, too, including in the comfort and privacy of one’s own home. Visit the Know Your HIV Status website to learn more about testing options, or to order a free at-home HIV testing (while supplies last).
It’s crucial that people living with HIV begin treatment as soon as possible. Immediate treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) typically leads to long, healthy lives for people living with HIV. It is also a method of HIV prevention. ART reduces the amount of HIV in the body, which makes it harder to transmit to others. People living with HIV who reach and maintain what is called “viral suppression” (fewer than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood) have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner.
There are also prevention tools for people who haven’t been diagnosed with HIV. While HIV prevention is truly a group effort, it can look very different from person to person. A health care provider can do a risk/needs assessment to determine appropriate next steps, which might include taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and using condoms to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Prevention may also take the form of regular retesting.
For more information, call 352-334-7960 or 1-800-FLA-AIDS.