BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Local health organizations are encouraging local residents to get tested during National HIV Testing Day on Tuesday, June 27.
The Florida Department of Health in Volusia County encourages everyone to know their status.
Free rapid testing will be available on that day at the health department’s facilities from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Appointments are not necessary.
“Everyone should take advantage of this opportunity to confirm their HIV status. When a person knows their status, they can protect themselves and their partners,” said Patricia Boswell, administrator of the Volusia health department.
Results in minutes
Rapid HIV testing requires a finger prick to collect a small drop of blood. Results are ready within 15 minutes. If test results indicate a blood draw is needed to confirm the rapid results, it also can be done at no-cost onsite, Boswell added.
“The tests are safe and FDA approved. There is some paperwork involved that may be the hardest part,” said Paula Burns, Area 13 HIV/AIDS program manger for the Florida Department of Health-Volusia County.
Clients can remain anonymous.
The health department also has rapid HIV testing available daily on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at locations in Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Orange City.
Outreach Community Care Network, located at 240 N. Frederick Ave., Daytona Beach, also will hold an event on June 27.
The center deals directly with HIV and hepatitis C patients.
Free food and raffles will go to those who get tested that day.
“We invite everyone to come out and take part in the event. It’s very important that you know your status. You’re dealing with your life. Everyone having sex should know their status,” commented Tamika Crumiell, prevention specialist with Outreach Community Care Network.
Still a stigma
HIV is a disease that affects many and still has a negative stigma.
“We do have some improvement in the community here locally when it comes to that stigma.
Having conversations about HIV reduces prejudices and negative feelings,” said Burns with the Volusia health department.
“We must also make HIV testing part of routine medical care, and having honest discussions about it can all reduce the fear and prejudices, which will help reduce the stigma.’’
Having the disease doesn’t mean a death sentence.
“An HIV diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it was years ago. There have been major advancements in medication. A person no longer has to take multiple pills. Many people now can take just one a day. If anyone needs HIV care but fear they cannot afford it, we can help,” Burns added.
National HIV Testing Day is a day recognized and set aside by government and national health organizations for free HIV testing designed for prevention and care.
The event was created in 1995 by the National Association for People with AIDS.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are About 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV. One out of seven people don’t know it.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.
But those more active are at higher risk and should be tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing. Three to six months is recommended.
For more Florida Department of Health-Volusia County information, call 386-274-0662 or visit www.FloridaHealth.org. The Community Care Network can be reached at 386-255-5569 or online at www.outreachinc.org.