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Free HIV Testing In Pensacola This Week


This Saturday is National HIV Testing Day.   In Escambia County, those free tests will be available for three days. As the Surveillance and Linkage Coordinator for the HIV Area One Program of the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Escambia County, Maurice Moody wants as many people as possible to get tested for HIV this week. The DOH is collaborating with Walgreens to provide free HIV testing and counseling this week for anyone who wants it. Moody says the county will park its mobile testing unit at the Walgreens location at 700 North Pace Boulevard in Pensacola on Thursday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment is needed. 

The test being used for the free testing event is called the Clearview test. Instead of using a blood draw, the Clearview test just uses a finger prick to test for HIV. People can get their results in about 10 minutes with this method. Moody says counselors will be on hand to guide people through the tests and the results. They will counsel clients on HIV prevention, and if a test comes back positive, the session moves from talking about prevention to treatment. Moody says the county works with the Ryan White Care Program, which helps low income people with their HIV treatment. "What we would do is link that person up with a Ryan White case manager, and the case manager would then determine eligibility, and from there that person would be...sent to a medical provider, one of our infectious disease doctors in the area." 

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and is usually transmitted from person to person through sexual contact or by sharing needles for intravenous drug use. It is not limited to any race or sexual orientation. Anyone can be infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care. Regardless of age, people at high risk of HIV should get tested more often.  According to the CDC’s latest numbers, about 50,000 people get infected with HIV each year and about 1.2 million people in the United States were living with HIV at the end of 2011. Of those people, about 14% do not know they are infected. Maurice Moody says even if you test negative, you may need another test in a few months to be sure. "The test is testing for HIV antibodies, and it can take the body up to three months before enough antibodies are produced for the test to pick it up." Moody says it's wise to get tested even if you put yourself at risk last night to establish a baseline, Then you would be asked to return in three months for a final test. "And in the interim we certainly encourage the person not to engage in sex, or if they do engage in sex make sure it's protected sex each and every time."

Again, the free HIV testing in Escambia County will be at the Walgreens location at 700 North Pace Boulevard in Pensacola on Thursday and Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No appointment is needed.