Free HIV testing offered this week

Member organizations of the HIV-AIDS Network of Southwest Florida will offer free HIV testing in Sarasota this week as part of the national HIV testing campaign, Sarasota County officials have announced.

The Sarasota County Health Department will provide free testing with same-day results from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The department is located at 2200 Ringling Blvd., in downtown Sarasota.

The Health Department also regularly offers testing at no charge on a walk-in basis for four sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, a county news release notes. Testing is provided at the department’s 2200 Ringling Blvd. location from 1 to 4 p.m. on Mondays; from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays; and from 1 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Community AIDS Network also will provide free testing with same-day results on the following days and locations:

• Tuesday, June 26, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Bethel CME Church, 1719 22nd St., Sarasota.

• Saturday, June 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1680 18th St., Sarasota.

Additionally, on Tuesday, June 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. free HIV testing will be available at the Planned Parenthood health center at 736 Central Ave. in Sarasota.

Health officials note that this year marks the 31st year since the start of the AIDS pandemic. “Despite advances in testing and treatment, many people who are HIV positive still do not know it,” the county news release points out.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five people living with HIV in the United States is unaware of their HIV status.

“Early diagnosis is the key,” said Valerie Wojciechowicz, a Sarasota resident who educates and advocates for women living with HIV. “When I learned that I was HIV positive over 20 years ago, I made positive lifestyle changes,” she says in the news release. “Today, my quality of life is good even with HIV, in part because of the early diagnosis and treatment.”

The risk factors for HIV infection are having unprotected sex and sharing needles or syringes. If persons have never been tested, or if they have had unprotected sex or shared a needle since their last test, they should get an HIV test, health officials say. “Knowing their HIV status can help them get into a medical treatment earlier, take steps to stay healthy, and keep from spreading the virus to others,” the release adds.

HIV testing has become fast and easy, the news release points out. The Clearview® HIV Test, done with a finger prick, provides preliminary test results in only five minutes. This testing will be available at the special testing events sponsored by the Sarasota County Health Department and Community AIDS Network.

The Rapid OraQuick HIV Test, also done with a finger prick, provides preliminary test results in 20 minutes; it is routinely used at the walk-in testing clinic at the Health Department’s downtown Sarasota location, the release adds.

“Test results are always kept private and are not shared with anyone, including family members, significant others, employers or landlords,” the news release points out.

For more information on HIV testing opportunities throughout the year, call the county call center at 861-5000 or visit the HANS website at