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National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Arlease Hall

March 08, 2019

The Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County (DOH-St. Lucie), recognizes March 10, as National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS  Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). A day to bring attention to how HIV and AIDS affect the health and well-being of women and girls within our community. This year’s theme, “HIV Prevention Starts with Me,” encouraging every woman and girl to play their role in HIV prevention.

“Women face unique challenges in preventing HIV. The unthinkable, passing HIV to their babies during pregnancy, birthing and through breastfeeding.  And  women are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse.  However, there is good news, we do know that during the last 20 years more women in the United States are getting tested for HIV and preventive treatment has gone up.  End result, the percentage of babies born with HIV decreased by more than 90%,” said Clint Sperber, County  Health Officer for the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all individuals 13-64 years old be tested for HIV at least once during their lifetime, and persons at increased risk for HIV infection are tested annually, at the least. According to the CDC, nation-wide 7,000 women were diagnosed with HIV in 2016, but Black women accounted for 61% were African American women, who are importunately affected by the epidemic. 

In Florida through 2017, one in 64 (age 13 and older) black women are living with HIV compared to 1 in 1,048 white women and 1 in 432 Hispanic women, with majority of women acquiring HIV through heterosexual contact. There are still great health disparities among the racial subpopulations with the state of Florida, as it relates to HIV infections.

If you are at-risk or increased-risk of becoming infected with HIV, there is a pill called (PrEP) Pre-exposure Prophylaxis that reduces the risk of HIV infection by up to 96%. New tools, like PrEP, a daily pill to prevent infection, can help us end new infections; when taken consistently. PrEP should be used in conjunction with other prevention methods like condoms to reduce the chance of infection. According to CDC, taking PrEP daily reduces the chance of getting HIV by more than 90 percent. As part of our strategic efforts to eliminate HIV in Florida, the Department has made Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication available at no cost at all 67 CHDs. There may be some associated cost for labs.

People who are HIV positive can reduce the chance of sexually transmitting HIV to others to effectively zero by taking daily HIV treatment, as prescribed, and maintaining an undetectable viral load (meaning their HIV medicines are working so well that there is an extremely low amount of virus in their blood). With early diagnosis, individuals can begin appropriate treatment and care resulting in better health outcomes.

In acknowledgement of NWGHAAD

DOH-St. Lucie is hosting “We’ve Got The T”
Saturday, March 9, 2019
In the Image of Christ Village Resource Center
3090 Avenue G
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
Registration begins: 9:30am
Event starts: 10:00am - 2:00pm

“We’ve Got The T” is and intimate event tailored for women and girls in our community  to have open, non-judgmental, and candid conversations about self-esteem, self-worth, and sexual health through workshops and activities. Confidential testing will also be available for HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis. This is a free event for the community.

Find a PrEP provider near you with the department’s PrEP Providers List

You can locate HIV counseling, testing and referral sites by visiting www.KnowYourHIVStatus.com or texting ‘FLHIV’ to 898211.

For more information, call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or 1-800-352-2437; En Español, 1-800-545-SIDA; In Creole, 1-800-AIDS-101. To chat with a live counselor at the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline, visit www.211bigbend.org/flhivaidshotline