February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. In joining forces with the event, the Florida Department of Health is offering free preventive medication at all of the state’s 67 county health departments.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative, was founded in 1999 in response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in African-American communities.
The Florida Department of Health says this year’s theme is “Together for Love: Stop HIV Stigma,” and it will emphasize people coming together to overcome the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, blacks are far more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than any other racial or ethnic group.
In 2017, one in 39 black men and one in 64 black women in Florida were living with HIV. Meanwhile, one in 168 white men and one in 1,048 white women were infected. Of Florida’s 116,944 HIV diagnoses in Florida in 2017, 53,333 (or 46 percent) were black.
“As we keep working to end new HIV infections in Florida, we must continue to address stigma, discrimination, cultural issues and other critical factors that create barriers in our communities,” said Fla. DOH HIV/AIDS Section Administrator Laura Reeves. “We must also address access and adherence to PrEP—a proven prevention tool—among all vulnerable populations, but specifically among black populations.”
As part of the department’s efforts to eliminate HIV in Florida, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication is being made available at no cost at all of Florida’s 67 county health departments.
According to the Fla. DOH, PrEP is a once-daily pill that can significantly reduce the risk of getting HIV among HIV-negative individuals. However, officials say PrEP should be taken in addition to other preventative measures, such as condoms, to reduce the risk of other infections like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.
According to the CDC, taking PrEP daily can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. A list of PrEP providers by county can be found here.
Additionally, the Duval County Department of Health will be offering free HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing on Friday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Franklin Arms Apartments, 888 Franklin Street.
To learn more and to find a nearby HIV/AIDS testing site go to KnowYourHIVStatus.com or call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS (1-800-545-SIDA en Español and 1-800-AIDS-101 in Creole).