As more people are living with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), support for care, education and prevention services is needed now more than ever.
On May 19, you can help make a difference to those impacted by HIV in our Tampa Bay community by joining Dining Out for Life, benefiting ASAP (AIDS Service Association of Pinellas), a member of Empath Health. Eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at local restaurants that have generously pledged to donate a minimum of 25% of their day’s proceeds to ASAP.
STDs on the Rise
Working to inform our community about STDS, STIs and treatment is Candace Dornstauder, RN, medical and educational supervisor at ASAP. “There are more than 20 million STDs and STIs in this country. We believe there are a lot of people undiagnosed,” said Dornstauder, who has served at ASAP for the past four years. She’s also president elect of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.
STDs are a growing health issue in the U.S. “Recent CDC data for three nationally-reported STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – show staggering numbers, with cases of all three diseases increasing for the first time since 2006. Young people ages 15-24, and gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men continue to be at greatest risk for infection,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HIV, the potentially deadly virus that causes AIDS, remains a continuing epidemic nationwide. “More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection. About 1 in 4 new HIV infections is among youth ages 13-24,” reports AIDS.gov. Here in Florida there are still many new infections each year.
Support, Education & Prevention
As a longtime, leading HIV services provider, ASAP supports and improves quality of life for the many adults, children and families infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in Tampa Bay. Prevention is another major part of their mission. They offer free, 20-minute HIV testing and condoms at locations in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as well as mobile testing throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Several people come long distances to ASAP in order to protect their confidentiality. “There’s still a high stigma with HIV and other STIs. People will travel here from Sarasota and Orlando if they want services because of the comfort of anonymity. We try hard to keep the dialogue open,” Dornstauder said.
HIV can be a complicated condition accompanied by many co-infections, such as syphilis and HCV (Hepatitis C virus). Regular testing and treatment are key to staying as healthy as possible, explains Dornstauder. “Getting people tested and getting them access to resources are important. HIV can be more difficult to treat. I do follow-ups to check if individuals have received treatment.”
The ASAP prevention team provides HIV education in schools, churches and other places. The community also commonly calls in for information on STDS. “We get a lot of calls from the community. They can ask questions and if we can’t help them, we’ll refer them to the health department to get connected with the help they need,” she said.
Speaking about HIV is Dornstauder’s great passion. “There’s still a lot of misconception about HIV. It’s important to educate the families, too. Using condoms can be a hard thing for people to talk about with their partners. There’s nothing I enjoy more than talking about it. I always tell people that they can relax. We want people to know it’s a safe, comfortable place where nobody will judge them and they will get what they need.”
Know Your Status – Get Tested
Visit an ASAP office or a mobile site to get a free, confidential HIV test. Check the ASAP website for locations.
Dine Out – Support HIV Services
Enjoy a meal out on May 19th for Dining Out for Life, benefiting ASAP. Find participating restaurants at DineTB.org.