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Starting Thursday, Health Officials Will Hold Several Free HIV Testing Events In Panhandle

CDC/MGN Online

National HIV Testing Day is Monday. But, ahead of that day, Bay County health officials are offering free HIV testing in several Panhandle counties.

Rick Vitale is the HIV-AIDS Program Coordinator for the Bay County Health Department. It covers six areas: Bay, Calhoun, Jackson, Gulf, Holmes, and Washington counties.

“Just in our encatchment area, we know of about 867 people who are HIV positive and we know there are even more people out there, who don’t know their status,” said Vitale. “And, this is why it’s very important to be tested.”

The HIV virus can cause AIDS, and Vitale says early diagnosis is key. That’s why he adds these free testing events over the next week are crucial to helping stop the spread of the disease, especially those engaging in risky behaviors.

“Unprotected sex without condoms, or without any prophylactic medications and/or maybe an HIV drug abuser, or possibly if a mother is pregnant and she is HIV positive and not know it, she could pass it onto her unborn child as well,” Vitale added.

The first day of the free HIV tests is Thursday at 10 a.m. in Calhoun County.

The following is more information on times, dates and locations:

Thursday, June 23
Calhoun County
Calhoun-Liberty County Health Department
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Friday, June 24
Washington County
Piggly Wiggly in Chipley
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Monday, June 27
Bay County

Florida Department of Health Bay County
7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Goodwill Center in Springfield
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 28
Jackson County
Jackson County Habitat for Humanity on Highway 90
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Wednesday, June 29
Holmes County
Holmes County Health Department
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 30
Gulf County
Dollar General Market in Port St. Joe
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.