BY KATIA SAVCHUK, YSAVCHUK@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Free rapid testing will be offered at three Metrorail stations, as well as clinics around the county, in recognition of National HIV Testing Day.
Mobile units at Allapattah, Earlington Heights and Hialeah stations will provide confidential testing, referrals for care and information on STD prevention during the “Take the Train… Take Test” event, organized by Miami-Dade’s health department and several partners.
Results will be available within a minute at Hialeah Station, and in around 20 minutes at others.
“We want to get the services to the public,” said Sandra Estevez, a coordinator at the Miami-Dade health department’s STD/HIV Prevention and Control Program. “This creates awareness, and this helps in ending the stigma. It’s confidential, it’s quick and we’re trying to push HIV testing as part of your routine.”
Union Positiva, Borinquen Health Care Center and AIDS Healthcare Foundation will conduct the tests at the stations between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. An outreach unit at Martin Luther King, Jr. Station Miami will offer educational materials but not testing.
Planned Parenthood also will offer free HIV testing at four health centers Thursday afternoon.
“There is a lot of angst and anxiety around HIV, but we feel like knowing one’s status is really a source of strength,” said Cory Neering, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. “When people know their status, they can take care of themselves and they’re less likely to give the virus to others.”
Tests will be available at Planned Parenthood’s North Miami Health Center between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. and at its Kendall, Miami and Pembroke Pines clinics from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Community Health of South Florida Inc. will also providing free screening at the Doris Ison Health Center in Miami and the Martin Luther King Jr. Clinica Campesina in Homestead.
An estimated 23,270 people are living with HIV in Miami-Dade County, according to December 2012 data from the county’s health department. Florida has the second highest number of newly reported HIV infections of any state and the third highest number of persons living with HIV, according to 2011 statistics from the Florida health department.
Last year, 9,988 people across the state were tested during the week of National HIV Testing Day, including 2,851 on the day itself.
This year marks the 18th annual National HIV Testing Day, which the National Association of People with AIDS launched to encourage more people to find out their status and take steps to protect their health.