MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In observance of National HIV Testing Day on Thursday, the Florida Department of Health is offering free rapid HIV testing in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. One in five (20%) of those people are unaware of their status. More than 125,000 people are believed to be living with HIV in Florida.
Miami- Dade is ranked number one in the nation for the highest number of new AIDS cases per capita in the United States and second in the nation for the number of children with AIDS. Even though African Americans make up just 20 percent of the population in Dade County, they account for more than 50 percent of HIV/AIDS cases.
“The numbers are terrible,” said Brodes Hartley, CEO of Community Health of South Florida. “This is not the way we want to be number one. The resources are here. We need to make sure people use them. It starts with using protection and the responsibility continues with getting tested.”
Community Health of South Florida is offering free, confidential HIV testing on Thursday at two of its health centers: Doris Ison Health Center at 10300 SW 216th St and at the Martin Luther King Jr. Clinica Campesina at 810 W. Mowry Drive in Homestead.
In Broward County 17,00 or one in every ninety people age 13 and over, are living with HIV/AIDS.
I’m seeing someone and want to make sure I am negative,” said Keith Byrd who showed up to be tested at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors. “It is scary to find out about any medical issue as a gay man the risks are high so you have to be tested and no. It’s scary for some people but you just have to face it.”
Experts say early detection and treatment are key.
“Early treatment means that they will live longer and also won’t pass the disease on to other partners,” said Pride Center testing manager Listron Mannix.
William Gail said he found out he was HIV positive in 2011.
“When that test came back positive I felt like I was being judged like I was just a low class citizen because I was HIV positive,” said Gail. “The fear and shame of being able to do what I needed to do after that sufferd, suffered. Honestly, for almost a whole year after finding out I was positive I did nothing about it. I didn’t go to doctors because I didn’t want to feel that anymore.”
Once he did take action, Gail said he became a testing counselor in an effort to offer support he never felt.
In Miami-Dade, state health officials have partnered with the county for this year’s “Take the Train…Take the Test” event. Free rapid HIV testing will be performed at the Allapattah and Hialeah Metrorail stations until 2 p.m. It will also be offered at the Earlington Heights station until noon.
The rapid HIV test, which requires no more than a finger-stick blood specimen, delivers reliable results in 20 minutes. Reactive rapid tests must be confirmed with a confirmatory test.
During the “Take the Test, Take Control” campaign in Broward, free rapid HIV testing will be available through June 30th at select locations. For more information on free testing sites call the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, HIV Prevention Program Office at 954-467-4700, extension 5660.
In Monroe County, free rapid HIV testing will be available throughout the Keys. Click Here for a list of locations.