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Health & Fitness

Free HIV tests at World AIDS Day event

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Published:   |   Updated: November 19, 2013 at 10:02 AM

AIDS doesn't dominate headlines like it once did, but the immune deficiency disease and related HIV infection remains a very real public health risk.

Today, HIV and AIDS are a way of life for nearly 103,000 Floridians, including 10,694 in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, Florida Department of Health data from July reports. Men and women of all ages and sexual orientations are being treated for the mostly chronic but still potentially deadly virus.

Testing remains the only way to know for sure if you've been infected, but state surveys show that fewer than half of Floridians younger than 65 have ever been tested.

That's a major public health concern, as 18 percent of the 1.1 million Americans who are infected are unaware of their status, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The Department of Health in Hillsborough County hopes to slow those numbers by offering free HIV tests as part of its annual World AIDS Day event on Dec. 6.

The tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the department's Specialty Care Clinic, 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event also will feature speakers throughout the day.

About 50,000 people a year in the United States are diagnosed with HIV. The infection cannot be cured, but most of those who are diagnosed can live a long and healthy life if they maintain a regular regimen of HIV medication. The drugs help combat the virus that targets the body's immune system and its CD4 cells.

HIV infection can progress to AIDS. About 15,000 people die each year from AIDS, the CDC says.

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