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Where To Get HIV Support In Florida

Where To Get HIV Support In Florida

Approximately 1.2 million people in the country are living with HIV, with some as young as 13 years of age. Of the number of people living with HIV in America, many are Floridians with little access to help. 

Fortunately, local healthcare centers are doing more to provide pre-exposure medication for high-risk individuals, as well as treatment and emotional support for HIV-positive patients. If you have recently received a positive diagnosis, this guide can help you find the therapy and care you need. 

Florida HIV Statistics You Should Know

In 2019, Florida led the nation in the highest number of new HIV cases, reporting 4,400 infections and a rate of 23.7 cases per 100,000 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since listed multiple Florida counties among the country’s most significant areas of concern.

With nearly 24 new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 people, Florida has an infection rate of 13, compared to the national average of 12.6. While you can easily get a diagnosis from groups like the Empath Partners in Care (EPIC), the pandemic has prevented people from visiting their local healthcare providers. 

Of the 121,000 people in Florida with HIV eligible to take PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, only 8% took it religiously in 2018. Compared to places like New York, the average usage rate of PrEP in the state is abysmal. The good news is, Florida is seeing a rise in education programs that work with at-risk individuals who have minimal access to sexual healthcare.

How Florida Is Preventing HIV Infections

While most HIV patients already suffer from other issues like poverty, drug use, and homelessness, healthcare centers are doing their best to make healthcare easy and accessible. Some of these efforts include:

Routine HIV Tests

Healthcare providers recommend that sexually active individuals between the ages of 13 and 64 get an HIV test every 3 to 6 months or each time they meet a new partner. Through the Florida County Health Department Know Your HIV Status initiative, people can link up with an appropriate assessment center and healthcare provider. 

Access To Health Programs

According to the U.S. HIV Treatment Guidelines, people should be entitled to antiretroviral therapy regardless of their HIV viral load and CD4 T cell count. Through Florida’s Test and Treat programs, people can:

  • Receive access to antiretroviral medications and care for infectious diseases
  • Enroll in HIV education and management programs
  • Schedule medical check-ups and assessments

Initiatives like Know Your HIV Status also help people stick to their HIV regimen and navigate the complexities and stigmas involved with the virus.

Access To Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis & Other Medicine

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) are comprehensive HIV prevention and treatments that reduce the likelihood of developing the disease. Individuals must take PEP within 72 hours of exposure for it to be effective, while PrEP is taken regularly to prevent transmission. 

Because the virus spreads rapidly, hospitals and clinics are working towards prioritizing immediate care. As numbers continue to rise, the Florida Department of Health is also quickly rolling out the Ready, Set, PrEP program, which aims to provide PrEP medications at no cost to buyers. 

Enhanced Educational Resources

Unfortunately, hundreds of HIV individuals are entirely unaware of their condition, especially amid the pandemic. As community events and in-person educational programs are suspended, the Florida Department of Health is rolling out accessible prevention strategies, resources, and training for individuals and healthcare providers.

Medication Assistance

Many HIV individuals are uninsured due to their low-income background. Fortunately, campaigns like the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) provide people below the poverty level with fully funded prescription medication and support services. 

To enroll in the ADAP, you must: 

  • Require HIV or AIDS prescriptions
  • Have an income 400% below the Federal Poverty Level
  • Lack adequate prescription coverage or health insurance
  • Not be currently confined in a hospital or hospice care 

Florida HIV Testing Sites

With ample testing, at-risk HIV individuals can detect the virus early, better understand their HIV diagnoses, and learn how to manage it. If you think you might have been exposed to an HIV-positive person and want to get newly diagnosed, get tested at one of these local HIV assessment sites.

TEST Miami

Through its Take Control initiative, TEST Miami provides free HIV testing, with the ultimate goal of encouraging newly diagnosed people to seek long-term care and counseling. It also provides confidentiality protections and substance abuse treatment for people looking to live longer, healthier lives while preventing HIV transmission. 

Florida Health Miami-Dade

Florida Health Miami-Dade provides comprehensive infectious disease services that include the following.

Perinatal HIV Services

The Miami-Dade’s perinatal department aims to prevent disease transmission from HIV-positive pregnant women to their newborn children. It provides an antiretroviral regimen administered throughout the pregnancy, during labor, and after birth. 

It partners with HIV-specialized pharmacies to help improve patient outcomes and provides HIV medication for higher risk or infected newborns. Pregnant mothers without the money to cover hospital care can also enroll in Miami-Dade’s insurance program. 

HIV Surveillance

Not only does Miami-Dade provide assessment and support services, but it also conducts surveys on new HIV cases. By keeping a close eye on HIV numbers, local health agencies can develop more effective therapeutic strategies and slow the epidemic’s progression.

Miami-Dade then shares this new data with: 

  • Hospitals
  • Public health officials
  • Local, state, and national government entities
  • Community groups
  • Researchers
  • City planners

In addition, Miami-Dade also examines HIV care data to better allocate resources and ensure that people are getting the help they need. 

Prevention Programs

Florida natives don’t have to meet stringent eligibility criteria to receive a free OraQuick In-Home Rapid Testing HIV Kit. With these mail-in kits, individuals also receive information regarding PrEP/PEP treatments and resources for medical care.

After getting tested, individuals can answer a voluntary survey to help researchers understand and prevent the spread of the virus.

Ryan White Service

The Ryan White Service aims to provide a comprehensive system of assessment, treatment, and psychological care. Since 1990, it has provided support to over 50% of people living with HIV throughout the United States. 

Thanks to its monitoring initiatives, the Ryan White Service can keep track of new HIV diagnoses and provide more accessible medication and outpatient services to those in need. Its free initiatives help connect low-income individuals, mothers, children, and minorities to a new sexual health center in their area.

HIV Support Groups In Florida

Not only do people living with HIV have to deal with the repercussions of a new diagnosis, but they also have to deal with the stigma that comes with it. However, individuals can create a stable network through support groups, better understand their options, and put their health first. 

RE-START

Part of the Hope and Health group, RE-START hosts bi-weekly meetings for individuals with HIV. It encourages people living with HIV to invite friends and family who may not have the resources to understand the condition. Ultimately, the group aims to combat isolationism and dismantle HIV-related stigmas to create a healthier and more accepting environment. 

STYLE & STYLE+

Short for Strength Through Youth Livin’ Empowered, STYLE and STYLE+ are interactive workshops for gay men between 13 and 30. It aims to encourage an improved sense of self through an 8-week program that opens three times a year. It also provides counseling services for HIV individuals who want to improve their interpersonal relationships or return to dating. 

Women RISE

As its title suggests, Women RISE (Reinforce and Increase Women’s Strength Through Empowerment) provides a safe space for HIV women to discuss their illness and work towards inner healing with the help of mental health professionals. It also equips women with the appropriate tools for returning to everyday life and improving romantic relationships. 

Community HIV Advisory Group

The Community HIV Advisory Group is a members-only community that makes an active effort to improve policies and programs for HIV prevention. Throughout a two-year commitment, members help improve existing HIV programs by reviewing protocols and addressing patient concerns.

The group is also part of the state’s Eliminate HIV Transmission and Reduce HIV-Related Deaths initiative. Hand-in-hand with this program, the Community HIV Advisory Group helps provide rapid testing and access to medication. 

Latidos Orlando

Of the Floridians with HIV, 74% are black or Hispanic. Latidos Orlando hosts bi-monthly workshops for Spanish-speaking gay and bisexual men, providing them with resources and strategies. In addition, it encourages Hispanic people to involve friends and family who might also be affected by stigma and discrimination. 

AWARE Orlando

For individuals living with HIV who can’t afford routine testing or a dedicated healthcare provider, AWARE (Achieving Wellness and Reaching Excellence) Orlando can provide you with the resources you need. It is a 6-week-long closed counseling and education group for people without a regular support system. 

At AWARE, people with HIV can interface with peers in a safe and confidential space. AWARE Orlando works with guest speakers in the medical field to host unique and enjoyable activities like speed dating and open forums. 

The Bottom Line

If you live with HIV, Florida has an increasing number of support groups and healthcare initiatives that can make your journey easier to manage. For a full list of HIV and wellness organizations in Florida, visit our LGBTQ Health & HIV directory.

Despite increasing HIV rates in Florida, educational efforts by local organizations, such as Equality Florida, have allowed people to become aware of their diagnoses and seek the help they need. Thanks to these hardworking initiatives in the Sunshine State, government officials are confident in seeing an eventual drop in infection rates.


***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She is the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization, and CEO of OUTCOAST, an online marketing and concierge platform marketing the Gulf Coast as an LGBTQ-inclusive place to VISIT, CELEBRATE, and LIVE.

Rachel is also an avid event photographer and has captured photos for LGBT organizations around the world, including the IGLTA, NGLCC, NLGJA, and Out & Equal.


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