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DOH-OSCEOLA OBSERVES WORLD AIDS DAY, CONTINUES FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS ACROSS STATE

By Nathaly Matos

December 03, 2018

 As the Florida Department of Health in Osceola County (DOH-Osceola) unites with partners worldwide in observance of World AIDS Day on December 1, the department reaffirms its commitment to fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in Florida and helping connect individuals who are positive with lifesaving treatment and services. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the observance of World AIDS Day, and the national theme is "Saving Lives through Leadership and Partnerships."

In observance of World Aids Day, DOH-Osceola is joining community partners at "A Healing Health Forum" to provide education on HIV/AIDS, free health screenings, and testing. The event will take place at the Kissimmee Civic Center on Friday, November 30, 2018 from 6 pm – 9 pm.

Over 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, but one in seven HIV-positive people do not know they are living with the disease.

Florida is a national leader in HIV testing. We have made great strides in prevention, early identification and treatment, however there is still much work to be done. In an effort to reach the goal of zero new HIV transmissions and reduced HIV-related deaths, the department is focusing on four key strategies:

  • Implementing routine screening for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,
  • Providing immediate access to treatment for the newly diagnosed as well as retaining HIV-positive persons in the care system, with the ultimate goal of getting HIV-positive persons to an undetectable viral load.
  • Improving and promoting the use of PrEP and nPEP as prevention strategies to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
  • Increasing community outreach and awareness about HIV, high-risk behaviors and the importance of knowing one’s status.

With early diagnosis, individuals can begin appropriate treatment and care resulting in better health outcomes. Receiving antiretroviral therapy as quickly as possible after diagnosis improves the health of persons living with HIV and can eventually lead to undetectable viral loads, which reduces the chance of transmission to others.

As part of our strategic efforts to eliminate HIV in Florida, the department is currently working to make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication available at no cost at all of the 67 county health departments (CHDs). Currently, DOH-Osceola offers PrEP services including up to a 90-day supply of PrEP through specialty clinics. PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce HIV-negative individuals’ risk of acquiring HIV. PrEP should be used in conjunction with other prevention methods, like condoms, to reduce the risk of transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of contracting HIV by more than 90 percent.

Every CHD offers high-quality HIV testing services, but you can also locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting KnowYourHIVStatus.com or texting your zip code to 477493.

For more information, call the Florida AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; en Español, 1-800-545-SIDA; in Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101.