People at high risk of contracting HIV are encouraged to take advantage of a new program that will drastically reduce their chances of becoming infected with the dreadful virus.
The Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Clinic at the Alachua County Health Department is designed to prevent people from contracting the virus by taking a Truvada pill once a day.
When taken as prescribed, Truvada has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 92 percent.
April is STD Awareness Month, and Gay Koehler-Sides, health department program manager, said the health department is trying to educate and inform people about how they can protect themselves from contracting STDs.
“The PrEP Clinic can help people keep from becoming infected with HIV,” Koehler-Sides said. “We just opened it late last year, and it is available for people with or without insurance.”
Koehler-Sides said those interested should call the health department at 352-334-7969 for more information or to make an appointment.
“Our STD and HIV programs remind clients to reduce their risk of STDs by using condoms correctly, limiting sexual partners and engaging in routine testing,” Koehler-Sides said.
According to the Florida Department of Health, the number and rate of syphilis cases is higher than it has been in more than 20 years in the U.S. To prevent the spread of all STDs, including syphilis, health departments provide screening, counseling, treatment and partner notification services to people infected or suspected of being infected with STDs.
The FDOH reports that syphilis is on the rise across the country and with almost every ethnic and age groups, and babies born with the disease is also increasing at an alarming rate.
A report found on www.flhealthcharts.com shows there were 28 reported cases of syphilis between 2010-12 and 85 between 2013-15 in Alachua County. Also, the rate of reported syphilis infections in Alachua County was 3.8 between 2010-12, compared with a state of Florida rate of 6.7. From 2013-15, the rate in Alachua County was 11.3, compared to 9.1 for the state.
The only way to avoid getting syphilis and other STDs is to not have sex, according to the FDOH. However, if you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of infection:
• Be in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for syphilis and other STDs.
• Use condoms the right way.
• Get tested by your health-care provider for syphilis and other STDs, or locate a clinic near you for free, fast and confidential testing.
• Get treated right away and be sure your sexual partner is treated as well to reduce the risk of re-infection if you test positive for syphilis or other STDs.
• STD Awareness Month provides the opportunity to remind individuals to take control of their health and assist health-care providers in educating their patients,” said Paul Myers, health department administrator.
Author: Cleveland Tinker