Allied Health Programs Celebrate World AIDS Day
South Florida State College’s Allied Health Program, in conjunction with the Highlands, Hillsborough, and Polk county health departments, will hold free, confidential HIV testing, Friday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in the SFSC Health and Science Education Center, Highlands Campus.
Testing will be administered by the health department using an OraSure device, which requires only a swab of the inside of the mouth. Results should be known within two to three weeks following the test. It is available to the public, ages 13 and older. Throughout the day, guest speakers will also cover topics including living with AIDS, children with HIV, and an HIV/AIDS question and answer session. Educational displays will also be on view. The event is in conjunction with World AIDS Day, a global event dedicated to raising awareness of HIV/AIDS.
“Statistics show that currently heterosexuals ages 70 and older have the fastest growing numbers for new HIV cases,” said Becky Sroda, associate dean, Allied Health. “This is the first screening to be conducted in Highlands County, and our county demographics suggest a strong need for one. People of all ages are at risk, and it is important that everyone know their status.”
According to the Polk County Health Department, there are an estimated 135,000 people in Florida live with HIV. In 2011, Florida was number one in the country for reported HIV cases and number three for diagnosed AIDS cases. In the state of Florida, 48,100 new infections occur each year, and 1 in 5 people do not know they are infected.
HIV is caused by a retrovirus that is transmitted through unprotected sex, the sharing of needles, by being born to an infected mother, and through breastfeeding. Less common methods are blood transfusions, mastication (pre-chewed food by an infected person), being stuck with a contaminated needle, and tattooing and body piercing.
“It is our hope that with awareness, we may one day get to zero – zero new HIV cases, zero discrimination, and zero deaths from AIDS,” Sroda said.
For more information about free HIV testing or World AIDS Day, call Sroda, 863-784-7021.
A YouTube video about the event can also be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UftElJs1itw&feature=youtu.be