FORT WALTON BEACH — June 27 commemorates National HIV Testing Day (NHTD). First observed in 1995, NHTD is meant to encourage people to be aware of their HIV status so that they can take control of their health. This year’s theme, “Doing It My Way,” highlights how and why people make testing a part of their lives. The Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County joins community partners across the country to emphasize the importance of getting tested, knowing your status, and getting linked to care and treatment.
“Individuals ages 13-64 should be tested for HIV at least once,” said Dr. Karen Chapman, director of the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County. "Individuals potentially at risk for acquiring HIV should be tested at least once a year. Your county health department offers fast, free and confidential HIV testing. By knowing your HIV status, you can protect your health and the health of the community."
In 2017, 116,944 Floridians were confirmed to be living with HIV. An estimated 18,000 more were living with HIV but unaware of it.
Did you know that there’s more than one type of HIV test? Most use either a blood sample or fluid swabbed from the inside of your cheek. There are different settings in which you can take an HIV test, too, including in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Visit KnowYourHIVStatus.com to learn more about testing options in your area or to order a free at-home HIV testing kit mailed directly to the address of your choice (while supplies last).
Knowing your HIV status is just the beginning
It’s crucial that people living with HIV begin treatment as soon as possible. Immediate treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) typically leads to long, healthy lives for people living with HIV. It’s also a method of HIV prevention.
There are also prevention tools for people who haven’t been diagnosed with HIV. While HIV prevention is truly a group effort, it can look very different from person to person.
Okaloosa CHD offers free HIV testing at 221 Hospital Drive NE in Fort Walton Beach from 7:30-10:30 a.m. and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. On Tuesday, testing is from 7:30-10:30 a.m. and 12:30-5 p.m. Friday hours are 7:30-10:30 a.m. and 12:30-2 p.m.
In Crestview, testing is at 810 E. James Lee Blvd. from 7:30-10:30 a.m. and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday.