Florida Health in Bay Continues Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Advance of World AIDS Day
November 28, 2017
Panama City, Fla. — Florida Department of Health in Bay County unites with people and communities worldwide as we 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.”
“This is a very important time for our community to adopt new strategic strategies in HIV prevention on this World Aids Day, the total elimination of all new HIV infections. It is possible with existing meds and a positive community support systems to stop the spread of this communicable disease. Uniting people for a single goal to save lives now and in the future.”, said Douglas Kent, DOH-Bay Administrator.
Over 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 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. DOH and our 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; and
- 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 our 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-Bay now offers PrEP to those that are at risk of HIV infection. We are offering PrEP through a specialty clinic. DOH-Bay’s clinic will operate every Tuesday from 7:30 am – 2pm and 4:30 – 7:30 pm starting in January. For more information, call 850-252-9597 or visit www.Bay.FloridaHealth.gov. In the future, PrEP will also be made available through CHD STD and Family Planning Clinics and patients can be provided with up to a 90-day supply of medications.
Every CHD also offers high-quality HIV testing services. Testing can be completed at your local county health department or you can locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting www.KnowYourHIVStatus.com or texting your zip code to 477493.
DOH-Bay offers testing at a variety of times and locations. Starting in January, we will offer free, confidential, and rapid tests every Tuesday from 7:30 am – 2 pm and 4:30 – 7:30 pm at our office at 597 W. 11th ST, Panama City, FL 32401. Tests are also offered at Splash Bar, located at 6520 Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, on the 2nd Friday of each month form 9 – 11 pm.
DOH-Bay will be participating in BASIC of Northwest Florida’s event to coumarate World Aids Day. The event will be held on December 1 at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church at 5:30 pm. The address is 1608 Baker Court, Panama City. For more information on this event, contact BASIC at 850-785-1088 or visit www.BASICNWFL.com.
For more information, call the Florida AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; En Espanol, 1-800-545-SIDA; In Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101.
About the Florida Department of Health
The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.