National HIV Testing Day on Saturday

By: Vanessa Nguyen Email
By: Vanessa Nguyen Email

Health clinics across the nation will be participating in National HIV Testing Day Saturday. Jackson County, the Marianna area, tied for 6th last year among Florida's 67 counties in the number of people who tested positive for AIDS.

The Jackson County Health Department is encouraging everyone to take advantage of tomorrow's free testing services.

Health Educators like Rick Vitale say they've come a long way since they began battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1981.
"Back when people were first diagnosed, we had a saying 'people were diagnosed by lunch and dead by dinner' which actually meant the progression of the HIV virus was a pretty quick and fast death."
In his 18-years working with HIV/AIDS patients, Vitale says advancements in medicine have helped prolong his patients lives.
But the battle continues and diagnosis is the key.
The Jackson County Health Department and Basic of Northwest Florida are offering free no needle HIV testing on Saturday.
"It's very simple, it's painless, it's confidential and you'll know your test results in 20 minutes."
Workers will also be distributing educational material.
Despite years of AIDS education, Vitale says some people just aren't hearing the message.
"We're starting to see that the trends are changing again and we are seeing more younger people walking through the door."
While Jackson County has a high rate of HIV/AIDS infection, healthcare workers are also seeing people from neighboring states and more women taking the test.
"If women are HIV positive, men are HIV positive as well so we need to get the word out and guys, it's time to man up."

The free HIV testing will be available at the Jackson County Health Department Saturday from 9am until 1pm.
For more information, call (850)-526-2412.


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