Nationwide, about 14% of people with HIV don't know they have it.
The Florida Department of Health in Flagler will offer free rapid HIV screening for residents from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 27 at its office at 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell, according to a DOH-Flagler news release.
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.
“Nationwide, about 14% of people with HIV do not know they have it," said DOH-Flagler’s Medical Director, Dr. Stephen Bickel, in the news release. "This translates to nearly 170,000 people who are at risk for serious complications of the HIV infection that can be largely prevented with early treatment. For this reason, we strongly urge everyone ages 13-64 to be tested for HIV at least once, whether they perceive themselves to be at high risk or not.”
The DOH-Flagler has offered HIV treatment for many years, with the program expanding in 2015 for Medicare, in 2016 for case management and in 2018 for a team-based approach of coordinated care under the Bickel's direction, according to the news release.
The local program continues to grow with nearly 100 participants and is demonstrating clinical success in reducing patients' viral loads to undetectable levels.
“We are committed to reducing the prevalence of HIV in our community and helping those with the infection lead healthier lives,” said Robert Snyder, health officer, in the news release. “In addition to offering routine screenings, we are reaching out to high-risk individuals for testing and to offer preventative treatment. We are re-engaging HIV positive persons into the care system while raising awareness about high-risk behaviors, the importance of knowing one’s status and, if positive, quickly accessing and staying in treatment.”
In addition to offering HIV medical care and case management, the department offers Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication through its Sexually Transmitted Disease and Family Planning Clinics.
PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce the chance of HIV-negative individuals contracting the infection, particularly when used in conjunction with condoms.
According to the Center for Disease Control, taking PrEP daily reduces the chance of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.
For more information about the HIV program in Flagler County, contact Mary Lachendro at 386-437-7350 ext. 7019. You can locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting www.KnowYourHIVStatus.com 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, visit www.211bigbend.org/flhivaidshotline.