World AIDS Day is a time to remember and commit

Lisset Ivey, M.D., M.S., Senior Human Services Program Specialist, Early Intervention Consultant Region 11b with the Department of Health for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about World AIDS Day.

The HIV epidemic is not over.

Ivey said, “It isn’t. We’ve been commemorating this day since 1988. It’s a day to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic and the spread of HIV infection and we’re mourning those who have died of the disease. That’s why this year the theme is remember and commit. We encourage our community to take care of themselves and to know their HIV status. Because nearly one in five people with HIV don’t know that they’re infected, and they don’t get medical care for the HIV infection. They can pass the virus on to others without knowing it. So we really encourage them to come on in. We offer free, confidential, rapid HIV testing. We also have some in home self testing kits that are offered. You can do it privately in your home. I am also available for telehealth to assist a person in doing the HIV test at home. Prevention of HIV is possible. We have PREP available which is pre exposure prophylaxis. We encourage anyone that is interested in having HIV prevention. There’s two forms of this prevention now there’s a pill form and there’s an injection form.”

All of those are available with the Health Department.

Ivey said, “It has better adherence to as an injection. So we have really come a long way. We have a lot of great resources. We created our HIV prevention website and there’s very good information on there. There’s also resources, and all of the testing sites in Monroe County are displayed there. Our phone number is 305-293-7500 if anyone would like more information or to make an appointment to be tested, and we encourage anyone over the age of 13 years old to be encouraged to at least know their status and get tested once in their lifetime.”

PREP will reduce a person’s risk of getting infected.

Ivey said, “For the pill form, they would take it once a day, every day at the same time, and with the injection, they come in every two months for that injection. That will reduce a person’s risk of getting infected.”

December 1 is World AIDS Day and the city of Key West will have a march from City Hall to the Key West AIDS memorial, remembering those who passed away from AIDS.

While HIV is still an epidemic, some people have become less diligent.

Ivey said, “Because of COVID-19, there was a bit of pause in general testing. Therefore, it’s important that everyone knows that the epidemic is still out there. Everyone should be routinely testing. We would ask all providers to routinely test their clients yearly, at least for HIV. It’s just a good practice. At least once in their life, everyone should know their status. It’s good practice, and it’s self care for the person.”

If someone is diagnosed with HIV, there are treatments available.

Ivey confirmed, “It is not a death sentence like it used to be years ago. There is a lot of hope in the medications that have come forth. It’s really usually one pill that the person takes in comparison to many pills from years ago. There’s a lot of hope, and we’ve come a long way and hopefully in the future, we will be ending the HIV epidemic.”

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