Learning about HIV with the CDC and Test Miami
This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.
Earlier this week I was invited to cover an event titled, “Take the Train. Take the Test.” hosted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Test Miami regarding HIV. Free HIV screening was being offered at the Hialeah Metrorail Station (hence the name of the event) to anyone who wanted to pass by and get tested. CDC advocate Maria Mejia who herself is HIV positive was also on-site to talk to and answer any questions people might have while getting tested. Radio DJ Efrain Melendez from Univision’s MIX 98.3 was there as well to encourage the radio listeners to come by and get tested.
According to the CDC:
More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV.
Approximately 45,000 Americans become infected with HIV every year.
About 1 in 8 people living with HIV don’t know they have it.
Being HIV positive is NOT a death sentence. You can start taking medication to prolong your life and lower your chance of spreading HIV to others.
Met Triathlon Mami who was also there to learn more about HIV and getting tested.
I accepted the opportunity to head out there to cover the event so I could learn more about HIV and help end the stigma associated with it. I also wanted to obtain a little more information as to what assistance the county offered regarding HIV testing since I’m still fairly new to the area and state and so I could share it with my readers here on the blog. After talking to some of the workers from Team Miami, here is some information that will be helpful for you if you live in the Miami-Dade county.
- You can visit www.testmiami.org and find the nearest testing site so you can get tested.
- The website also offers a list of locations as to where their mobile testing locations will be at so you can visit those as well since their mobile locations are the ones that offer FREE HIV testing and medication.
- You can obtain FREE condoms through their site. Condoms can get expensive which is why Test Miami assists you by mailing you a care package with various kinds of condoms for FREE in order to help you practice safe sex. There is no limit as to how many times you can order from them.
- If you don’t want to obtain PrEP (preventive method) through your doctor, Test Miami can assist you with obtaining that prescription. (More on this preventive method below)
PrEP is a fairly new preventive method (since 2012) people can take in order to decrease their chances of becoming infected with HIV. Candidates for this method are people who have a very high risk of coming in contact with HIV by having unprotected sex with a person who has HIV infection. This is also ideal for people that sometimes have sex without using a condom, especially if they have a sex partner who they know has HIV infection, or if they don’t know whether their partner has HIV infection but they know they have high risks for it (for example, they inject drugs or are having sex with other people in addition to them). PrEP is a pill taken every day, but it is slow release so it must be taken for a few days for it to get into the system before it can protect. This, of course, is not meant to replace condoms, but rather a prevention option meant to be used consistently and used with other prevention options such as condoms. 1 in every 4 doctors is still not aware of this preventive method so it is possible that your own doctor might not know about it which is why Test Miami offers to assist you in obtaining this prescription.
Here are some tips to help end the stigma associated with HIV because only by educating ourselves and others will we help put an end to it.
- Get the facts: sharing information can help reduce misunderstanding associated with HIV. HIV is NOT spread by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or “social kissing” with someone who is HIV positive. You CAN’T obtain HIV by consuming food handled by an HIV infected person. HIV is NOT spread by mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects.
- Get tested: Testing is the only way to know if you are HIV positive. Knowing your status empowers you to talk openly about what it’s like to get tested and encourage others to do the same.
- Get involved: Every conversation we have about HIV helps eliminate the stigma that is often associated with the disease.
Hope this information has helped you understand HIV a little more. Make sure to share it with others as well.