FDOH-Alachua Hosts World AIDS Day Block Party and Continues Fight Against HIV/AIDS

​This press release sent out at the request of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.

The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) unites with people and communities worldwide as they observe World AIDS Day by showing support for people living with HIV and honoring those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. This year’s national theme is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”

In honor of World AIDS Day, DOH-Alachua’s Minority AIDS Program is partnering with the Gainesville Housing Authority, Operation Diabetes, and other community organizations to host the World AIDS Day Block Party. The Block Party takes place on December 1, 2017, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Pine Meadows (2626 E. University Ave, Gainesville). There will be music, free food, health screenings, and games for the kids.  

“This World AIDS Day, we have more resources than ever to prevent new HIV infections and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV,” said Health Department Administrator/Deputy Secretary for County Health Systems Paul D. Myers. “Our Health Department is making an impact in the community by offering HIV testing, PrEP, and nPEP for people who are HIV negative. For people who are HIV positive, we offer immediate access to treatment through our ‘Test and Treat’ program, a specialty clinic, medical case management, and many other services. World AIDS Day is an important time to pause to remember those we have lost to HIV/AIDS but also a time to celebrate how far we have come in the fight against HIV.”

Over 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and one in seven of them don’t know it. The Department remains fully committed to fighting the spread of HIV in Florida and helping connect individuals who are positive with lifesaving treatment and services.

Florida is a national leader in HIV testing. The Department of Health and partners throughout Florida have made great strides in prevention, identifying infections early, and getting people into treatment, however, there is still much work to be done. The Department is focusing on four key strategies to make an even greater impact on reducing HIV rates in Florida and getting to zero, including:

  • Routine screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and implementation of CDC testing guidelines
  • Increased testing among high-risk populations and providing immediate access to treatment as well as re-engaging HIV positive persons into the care system, with the ultimate goal of getting HIV positive persons to an undetectable viral load
  • The use of PrEP and nPEP as prevention strategies to reduce the risk of contracting HIV
  • Increased community outreach and awareness about HIV, high-risk behaviors, the importance of knowing one’s status and if positive, quickly accessing and staying in treatment.

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 viral loads of HIV. This model has been successfully implemented in Florida, and there are currently 35 Test and Treat sites operating statewide.

As part of their strategic efforts to eliminate HIV in Florida, the Department of Health is currently working to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication available at no cost at all of the 67 county health departments within the next year. PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV in HIV-negative individuals. PrEP should be used in conjunction with other prevention methods like condoms to reduce the risk of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

DOH-Alachua has a PrEP clinic for both insured and uninsured clients. Please call 352-334-7969 to schedule an appointment. Patients can be provided with up to a 90-day supply of medications.

Every county health department also offers high-quality HIV testing services. Testing can be completed at local county health departments, or residents can locate HIV counseling, testing, and referral sites by visiting the Know Your HIV Status website or texting their zip code to 477493.

For more information, call the Florida AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; En Español, 1-800-545-SIDA; In Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101.

For more information about the World AIDS Day Block Party, contact Gay Koehler-Sides at 352-334-7965 or gay.koehler-sides@flhealth.gov.

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