This press release was published at the request of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.
World AIDS Day is observed internationally on December 1. This year’s national World AIDS Day theme is “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first official cases of what later became known as AIDS.
The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County (DOH-Alachua) is hosting a community block party/health fair to increase HIV awareness and move towards ending the HIV epidemic. The block party is on December 4, 2021, at Pine Meadows Apartment (2626 East University Avenue, Gainesville), from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be music and free HIV testing, health screenings, syphilis testing, Covid-19 vaccines, and food.
“It is important to get routinely tested for HIV. The Florida Department of Health in Alachua County offers free and confidential HIV testing as well as other services to assist clients in getting linked to care. By knowing your status, you can take control of your own health,” said Gay Koehler-Sides, HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator, Florida Department of Health in Alachua County.
Advances in HIV prevention and treatment have come a long way, but not everyone has benefited equally. Social determinants of health, like stigma, discrimination, income, language, and education, affect a person’s risk of acquiring HIV and their health after diagnosis. Normalizing conversations around HIV is the most effective way to break down these barriers and address the intersecting issues negatively impacting community health.
In 2020, 117,447 people were living with HIV in Florida, 3,504 of whom were newly diagnosed. That same year, complications related to HIV claimed 642 lives; this has consistently been a leading cause of death in Florida over the years. Florida experiences a high burden of the HIV epidemic, and the Florida Department of Health is committed to connecting people to the resources they need to live long, healthy lives. The first step is to get tested.
Knowing your status is the first step toward effective HIV prevention. People can reduce their risk for HIV by using appropriate prevention strategies, such as taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), using condoms and, getting tested regularly. Contact a health care provider to find out if PrEP is recommended for you. Additionally, people living with HIV who take antiretroviral medication as prescribed and have an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners.