In recognition of World Aids Day on December 1, the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County reminds residents they can receive free HIV screenings weekdays between 8:15 and 11 a.m. at its office, 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell. This service is offered to demonstrate the department’s commitment to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS and helping connect HIV positive individuals with lifesaving treatment and services.
“Our HIV program is changing lives in Flagler County,” said Health Officer Robert Snyder. “For three years, we’ve offered a treatment program that rivals those found in larger communities. Under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Bickel, we encourage HIV-positive patients to get and stay in treatment, which, in turn, helps them lead healthier lives.”
In 2018, there were 119,661 people living with HIV in Florida. More than half of the 4,906 new diagnoses were for people between the ages of 20 and 39. In Flagler in 2018, there were 10 reported cases of HIV, down from 16 the year before. Flagler County’s rate of 9.2 infections per 100,000 people is less than half of Florida’s rate of 23.4.
In the United SDtates, more than 1.1 million people are living with HIV, but one in seven HIV-positive people do not know they have living with the disease. That’s why it’s important to know your HIV status.
Florida is a national leader in HIV testing, which is why every Florida Department of Health offers screening. You can also test yourself in the privacy of your own home by visiting KnowYourHIVStatus.com and ordering a free at-home HIV testing kit (while supplies last).
Knowing your HIV status is only the beginning. What you do to stay healthy after that largely depends on your results.
It’s crucial that people living with HIV begin treatment as soon as possible. Immediate treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) typically leads to longer, healthy lives for people living with HIV. It’s also a method of HIV prevention. ART reduces the amount of HIV in the body, which makes it harder to transmit to others.
There are also prevention tools for people who haven’t been diagnosed with HIV. DOH-Flagler conducts risk/needs assessments to determine appropriate next steps, which might include taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication and using condoms to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Prevention may also take the form of regular retesting.
For questions about HIV and testing in Flagler County, call HIV program manager Mary Lachendro at 386-313-7091.