National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7. is a day to increase awareness about HIV among blacks/African Americans and encourage people to get involved in prevention efforts, get tested and get treatment if they are living with HIV.

Florida is among the top three states in the nation for the number of people newly diagnosed with HIV. Data recently released from the Florida Department of Health shows that of the 116,944 persons with HIV, 42% are black or African American, 31% are Hispanic and 25% are White.

Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. They represent the majority of new HIV diagnoses, people living with HIV, and deaths among people with HIV in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though this data is discouraging, it is important to know that HIV cases in Florida have decreased significantly among all races and ethnicities over the last 10 years and there is much we can do, individually and as a community, to prevent the disease from spreading.

HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sexual contact and sharing needles or syringes with a person who has HIV. There is no cure for HIV, but with proper medical care, the virus can be controlled. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection.

Prevention efforts include abstinence, monogamy, condom use, PrEP and testing. PrEP is an HIV prevention medication for sexually active HIV-negative individuals. When taken every day, PrEP has been shown to be highly effective in protecting against HIV. It should be used in conjunction with other prevention methods to reduce the risk of infection.

The Florida Department of Health, as of Dec. 31, 2018, offers PrEP and related services throughout the state. In Alachua County, call Cathaerina Appadoo at 352-334-7900 ext. 3335 for more information.

Getting an HIV test, knowing your HIV status, and encouraging your friends, family and community to do the same are important steps in preventing the spread of HIV. According to the CDC, nearly one in five persons with HIV doesn’t know he or she is infected, and can pass the virus on to others unknowingly. Studies have shown that when people find out they have HIV, they are more likely to take steps to protect their health and that of their partners.

There are many clinics and testing locations in North Central Florida that offer free, fast and confidential testing. Among them is WellFlorida Council’s HIV prevention project whose website EveryoneStopAIDSNow.org lists free HIV testing events and locations. The site also directs individuals who have recently been diagnosed with HIV or who have HIV but have not received medical care in six months to ARTAS (Anti-Retroviral Treatment and Access to Services), which links people to the care and resources they need.

In addition, WellFlorida recently released a new website, HIVCarePrograms.org, that features programs offering healthcare and support services to people living with HIV in North Central Florida. The site also includes resources on how to prevent the spread of HIV and how to stay healthy. HIVCarePrograms.org is sponsored by WellFlorida Council and the Florida Department of Health.

WellFlorida Council, Inc. is the local health council for North Central Florida and specializes in health consultancy for causes. Visit www.wellflorida.org for more information.

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WellFlorida Council, Inc. is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created in 1969. We are the state designated local health council for 16 counties in North Central Florida and specialize in health-related consultancy for clients and projects throughout Florida.

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Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union.

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