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DOH-Marion encourages residents to test your way on National HIV Testing Day

June 22, 2018

 

OCALA, Fla.— The Florida Department of Health in Marion County recognizes June 27 as National HIV Testing Day. This year’s theme is “Test Your Way – Do It Today.” The theme is a reminder that HIV testing has never been more convenient, because there are more ways than ever to get tested.

“By knowing your HIV status, you have the power to take care of your health,” said Florida Department of Health in Marion County Health Officer Mark Lander. “If you test positive, we have resources to get you into care and on medications that help control your health and reduce the risk of it transmitting to others.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all individuals ages 13 to 64 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 more than 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 doctors’ 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.

The Florida Department of Health in Marion County is offering free testing at two locations on June 27 in honor of National HIV Testing Day. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., residents can get free rapid HIV testing with results in 15 minutes at the Walgreen’s Pharmacy at 807 W. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala. The same day from 8 to 11 a.m., residents can also go to Ramah Missionary Baptist Church (10545 SE 58th Ave., Belleview) for free mouth swab HIV testing. Residents can get free rapid results HIV testing every business day at the Department of Health in Marion County’s main office in Ocala (1801 SE 32nd Ave.)

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 of Health is working to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication available at no cost at all 67 county health departments 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 the CDC, taking PrEP daily reduces the chance of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

PrEP will be made available through Department of Health Sexually Transmitted Disease and Family Planning Clinics, and patients can be provided with up to a 90-day supply of medications. Some county health departments 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 texting ‘FLHIV’ to 898211 or visiting www.KnowYourHIVStatus.com.

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, visit www.211bigbend.org/flhivaidshotline