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Florida Department of Health in Flagler Offers Free Screening on National HIV Testing Day

By Gretchen Smith

June 22, 2018

Bunnell, Fla.—The Florida Department of Health in Flagler (DOH-Flagler) recognizes June 27 as National HIV Testing Day and will offer free HIV screenings that day in Bunnell.

According to Robert Snyder, health officer, the DOH-Flagler has offered HIV treatment for many years, with the program expanding in 2015 for medical care, in 2016 for case management, and in 2017 a team-based approach of coordinated care under the direction of Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel. The local program continues to grow with nearly 100 participants and is demonstrating clinical success in reducing patient’s 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 Snyder. “In addition to offering routine screenings, we are reaching out to high-risk individuals for testing and to offer them 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.”

Florida remains a national leader in HIV testing, with over 1,400 registered HIV test sites (including each county health department and community-based organizations) that 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.

To recognize National HIV Testing Day, the DOH-Flagler will offer complimentary Rapid HIV Testing Wednesday, June 27 from 8AM to 4PM at 301 Dr. Carter Blvd in Bunnell.

 “Nationwide, about 14% of people with HIV do not know they have it. 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,” said DOH-Flagler’s Medical Director Dr. Stephen Bickel. “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.”

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

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.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @HealthyFla. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit www.FloridaHealth.gov.

For information about the Florida Department of Health in Flagler, go to flagler.floridahealth.gov, call 386-437-7350, or visit 301 Dr. Carter Blvd. in Bunnell.