This press release published at the request of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.
The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County recognizes June 27, 2018, as National HIV Testing Day. This year’s theme is “Test Your Way. Do It Today,” which serves as a reminder that HIV testing has never been more convenient because there are more ways than ever to get tested. The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County is hosting a free HIV testing event on June 27, at The Heart of Gainesville Thrift Store (125 N.W. 23rd Ave, Gainesville) from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. They are also hosting a free HIV testing event on June 29, at UF Health Family Medicine (1707 N. Main St, Gainesville) from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“Getting tested is the first step in taking care of your health and controlling the spread of HIV,” said Gay Koehler-Sides, HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator for Area 3/13. “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 years old be tested for HIV at least once during their lifetime, and persons at increased risk for HIV infection be tested at least annually.
Florida remains a national leader in HIV testing, with over 1,400 registered HIV test sites (including each county health department and community-based organizations) which provide high-quality, confidential testing services at low or no cost. Last year, more than 340,000 HIV tests were conducted through Florida’s registered HIV test sites. Testing is also available through doctor’s offices and other health care facilities.
With early diagnosis, individuals can begin appropriate treatment and care resulting in better health outcomes. Studies have shown that providing antiretroviral therapy as early as possible after diagnosis improves a patient’s health, reduces transmission, and can eventually lead to undetectable HIV viral loads.
HIV-negative individuals are encouraged to reduce the chance of contracting HIV by using prevention strategies. As part of our strategic efforts to eliminate HIV in Florida, the Department is working to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication available at no cost at all 67 CHDs by the end of this year. PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce the chance of acquiring HIV in HIV-negative individuals. PrEP should be used in conjunction with other prevention methods like condoms to reduce the chance of infection. According to CDC, taking PrEP daily reduces the chance of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.
PrEP will be made available through CHD Sexually Transmitted Disease and Family Planning Clinics and patients can be provided with up to a 90-day supply of medications. Some CHDs may offer PrEP through a specialty clinic. Find a PrEP provider near you with the department’s PrEP Providers List.
You can locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting the Know Your HIV Status website, or texting ‘FLHIV’ to 898211.
For more information, call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; En Español, 1-800-545-SIDA; In Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101. To chat with a live counselor at the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline.