County offering free HIV testing today
Eric Stockley of the Charlotte County Health Department can’t say for certain how many people living in the county are currently infected with HIV or AIDS. A transient population and confidentiality concerns are just some of the reasons that number remains elusive, Stockley said.
But advancements in HIV medication have helped to prolong the lives of those infected, medicines that are a far cry from the early days of the disease, when sufferers were required to take up to 15 pills a day.
Now there are more than 30 different types of medication available, Stockley said, and those infected with HIV are taking no more than three pills a day.
“We have people who are living healthy, long, productive lives because they get on the medications. You can now extend your life,”
Stockley is hoping everyone in the community comes out today to take advantage of free HIV testing, an easy and fast process that requires only a drop of blood inside a mobile unit in the 24100 block of Tiseo Boulevard, Port Charlotte, from 9 a.m.
to 4 p.m.
In honor of National HIV testing day, the health department is teaming up with Hedges Pharmacy of Sarasota and ClearChannel Radio to make the free mobile testing available, Stockley said.
The earlier an individual is diagnosed with HIV, the better chance the medications will have a prolonged, positive effect on that person’s life, Stockley said.
Part of the problem is convincing people to get tested, especially the county’s senior population; the number of the elderly infected with HIV has been on the rise.
Stockley said last year the county had two new cases of HIV-positive people over the age of 70. Seniors often feel the disease doesn’t affect those in their age range, he added.
“The disease has been around for 30 years, and of course 30 years ago they were younger,” Stockley said.
Testing will continue today from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Door of Refuge Church, at 215 Tabor St., Punta Gorda, for those who may have missed the opportunity earlier in the day.
The “take-home message” of the free testing, as Stockley put it, is the assurance you are HIV free, or if you are infected you have options ahead of you to start treating the disease.
“It’s no longer a death sentence. You can extend your life and help to prevent the spread of the disease,” he said.
For more information,
contact the Charlotte County Health Depart-
ment at 941-624-7200.