Leon County DOH recognizes World AIDS Day with wellness exhibition

Brandi Knight

Special to the Outlook

The Florida Department of Health in Leon County joined with people and communities worldwide to mark observance of World AIDS Day last Thursday. 

This year’s World AIDS Day theme was “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” which encourages people to unite globally to eliminate the barriers to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment that are holding back progress on ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

In honor of World AIDS Day, DOH-Leon in collaboration with key community partners, to host the Second Annual Health and Wellness Exhibition. This event was celebrated as “Unity In Our Community” held at Cascades Park. It featured information about available resources and services, educational materials, entertainment, speakers, prizes, and food. A special ceremony commemorated those who have been lost to HIV.

In part the event was an intended to raise awareness about HIV treatment and prevention, and standing together in the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 

Florida has made great strides to reduce HIV transmission and continues to work toward eliminating HIV-related deaths by providing equitable access to HIV prevention and care services. The rate of HIV deaths among all persons diagnosed with HIV in Florida has declined by 31percent over the last decade, but there is still more progress to be made. In 2021, there were 120,502 people living with HIV in Florida, 4,708 of who were newly diagnosed. In Leon County, there were 1,364 people living with HIV in 2021. 

“We want all Leon County residents to have the opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives,” said Brandi Knight, MPH, DOH Leon Health Officer. “We fight to end HIV with an extraordinary group of heath care partners that are committed to ensuring that everyone with HIV and those at-risk have access to appropriate testing, treatment, and prevention services.

“We encourage anyone older than 13 to know their status, get tested for HIV, and explore treatment options if they test positive.”

It is important that people know their options when it comes to HIV prevention and treatment. Medication-based HIV prevention — called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — and HIV treatment are both based around antiretroviral therapy. Until recently, these medications were only available in pill form. Now, HIV prevention and treatment has evolved to include long-acting injectables. These medications are as effective as daily pills and provide individuals with additional options. Ensuring every single person has an HIV prevention or treatment option that works for them is key to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Individuals should protect themselves, get tested, know their status and learn what’s next.

Knowing your status is the first step toward effective HIV prevention and treatment. People can reduce their risk for HIV by using appropriate prevention strategies, such as taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), using protection, and getting tested regularly. Contact a health care provider to find out if PrEP is recommended for you. 

If you test positive for HIV, seeking HIV treatment is critical. Antiretroviral therapy can help people live longer, healthier lives. People living with HIV who take antiretroviral medication as prescribed and have an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. Both PrEP and HIV treatment medications are now available as pills and long-acting injectables.

Individuals have the power to prevent and treat HIV. Visit the Know Your HIV Status website to learn about nearby testing options or order a free at-home HIV testing kit mailed directly to the address of your choice. For more information, call 1-800-FLA-AIDS, or 1-800-352-2437; en español, 1-800-545-SIDA; in Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101.

To learn more about DOH-Leon’s prevention and treatment options or to schedule an appointment for a no-cost HIV test, call (850) 404-6240 or visit the DOH-Leon webpage. 

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