Local Group Gives Free Tests For HIV

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PANAMA CITY - H-I-V and AIDS, certainly not one of the easiest topics to bring up.

From the outbreak in the 1980's to now, education on the disease has grown leaps and bounds.

A local non-profit group has been going around Bay County this week to test and teach residents about how it can be prevented.

Since 1989, BASIC of Northwest Florida has been trying to educate, counsel, and provide services to people with HIV or those worried they may have it.

Their goal is to educate everyone, not just those who are infected.

That's why this week, in advance of June 27th which is National HIV Testing Day, BASIC employees have been traveling to Walgreen's across Bay County to do testing and bring awareness to the general public.

Pamela Williams of BASIC says, "It's very important because a lot of people now, today, believe it's a manageable virus, but even if it is manageable, we're stressing the fact that if we can get everyone to test. We can get it down to zero."

In Bay County alone, new cases of positive tests for HIV have doubled since 2012.

The majority of cases appeared in men in the 20 to 49 age range.

The test is free and the whole process doesn't take that long at all. What employees do is ask basic, personal questions and about risk factors, then they swab your mouth, put it in a solution and 20 minutes later, you have your results. Some leg tapping and thumb twiddling occur as you answer a few more questions and wait for your results.

BASIC pledges "Compassion Without Judgement" so they make sure your information is confidential.

The disease doesn't discrimate, it can affect anyone.

Pamela Williams added, "With HIV, there's a lot of factors with it. We do just stress that people do protect themselves."

''Take the test, take control" is the motto and BASIC says they can even drive to you if you'd like to get tested

BASIC will have their mobile unit at the Walgreen's in Callaway on Friday for testing from 11am to 2pm.

Their office is located Downtown at 432 Magnolia Avenue.

More details can be found on their website at www.basicnwfl.com.