FLORIDA HIV/AIDS HOTLINE

florida hiv/aids hotline

1-800-FLA-AIDS (352-2437) English
1-800-545-SIDA (545-7432) Spanish
1-800-AIDS-101 (243-7101) Haitian Creole
1-888-503-7118  TDD/TTY (Hearing/Speech Impaired)

Text FLHIV or flhiv to 898211 - Texting is available when the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline is open.

HOURS OF OPERATION
Monday thru Friday: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Saturday:   10:30 AM - 6:30 PM
Sunday:   2:00 PM - 6:30 PM

ABOUT
The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline is the statewide resource for HIV/AIDS-related information, community referrals and supportive telephone counseling. Callers receive information on HIV and AIDS related issues including locations of testing sites and program services in Florida.

Please explore our web site or e-mail a counselor if you need any additional information. Inquires will be researched and a response will be sent within two business days. For additional HIV/AIDS information visit Florida's Stop the Spread web site.

We are funded by the Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

Please note this site contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Search the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline Statewide Database

Web Chat
In the gray box in the lower right corner of your screen:

• If the web chat text states 'We're Available!' then a trained counselor is logged in and ready to begin chatting with you. Click the yellow tab labeled "START CHAT" and complete the form to begin chatting. The counselor may take a minute or two to engage. 

• If the text states 'A counselor is unavailable' you can still click the yellow tab to leave a trained counselor a message. Be sure to enter correct contact information if you would like a response. Responses may take up to two business days. 

• Please only click the yellow tab labeled UNDOCK if you are familiar with chat applications. This will open the chat feature in its own window separate from your browser.

• If you are on a mobile device your browser must not be in private mode and cookies must be enabled. At the bottom of the browser page, make sure you are using the Standard Version.

• If you do not see a gray box in the lower right corner of your screen, you can call or e-mail a counselor using the phone number or link above.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Click below to learn more about the most common STDs:
• Chlamydia
• Gonorrhea
• Genital Herpes
• Genital Warts
• Syphilis
• Pediculosis Pubis (pubic lice)
• Scabies
• Candida/Vaginal Thrush
• Moluscoum Contagiosum
• Hepatits A
• Hepatits B
• Hepatits C
• Trichomoniasis (Trich)

STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections or STIs, come in a variety of types. There are fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses.

What is the connection between HIV and other STDs?
1. Several STDs cause lesions or open sores to occur which may serve as portals of entry directly into the blood stream and better facilitate HIV infection.
2. Some STDs are considered to be co-factors which assist in the immune system malfunction leading to AIDS.
3. People who leave themselves open to STD infections also leave themselves open to eventual HIV infection.

How do I get tested for STDs?
For those which are fungal or bacterial infections, you can be tested as soon as two weeks after exposure. For the viral infections, you will have to wait for your body to produce enough antibodies to that specific virus to take what is called a "titer" blood test. That time is generally three months after exposure. An important rule of thumb: should you experience any symptoms after sexual contact, it is advisable to seek the advice of a physician as soon as possible. Letting symptoms get worse or putting off STD testing can result in severe illness, sterility, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, passing an infection to your next partner, irreversible damage to your nervous system, or even death. Within the state of Florida, all Public Health Departments offer STD testing. The HIV/AIDS Hotline has a listing of STD test sites throughout the state.
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Where can I get more information about STDs?

If you live in Florida and you have questions or concerns about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you can call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or send a trained counselor an email. If you live outside of Florida, visit The Body to find an AIDS hotline near you.

An overview of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

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Hotline history

In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control first became aware of the disease we now know as AIDS. In 1983, the virus that causes AIDS was isolated and eventually named HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). By 1985, widespread blood testing had begun, and 2-1-1 Big Bend received a contract with the Florida Department of Health to establish a new, statewide AIDS hotline.

The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline began as an off-shoot of the local crisis and information hotline operated by 2-1-1 Big Bend, Inc. Telephone counselors simply added an extra phone and incoming line to answer statewide calls, and looked up HIV/AIDS information in a slim binder that was little more than a collection of pamphlets.

We now have five lines in English, two additional lines for Spanish and two more for Haitian-Creole, as well as a separate line providing TTY access for the hard-of-hearing and deaf.

The Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline operates with dozens of paid and volunteer counselors and is an active member of the Ryan White Consortia, the Florida HIV Community Planning Group; the Red Ribbon Alliance; and the National AIDS Fraud Task Force.

If you need additional information, please call the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline or send a trained counselor an email.

If you live outside of Florida, visit The Body to find an HIV/AIDS hotline in your area.

the difference between HIV and AIDS

HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Let's take a closer look at these words and what they mean:

"H" is for Human, meaning that only humans get this virus. So you don't have to worry about ever getting infected from a pet or a mosquito.

"I" is for Immunodeficiency, meaning that this virus causes your immune system to have some serious problems. The immune system is what fights off diseases and infections. When your immune system has problems, it makes it easier for you to get sick and harder for you to get well.

"V" is for Virus, which refers to the specific type of germ or antigen. Other types of germs are bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Fortunately, all of those types of germs can be killed with specific medications. Unfortunately, viruses can't be killed. You can't take a medicine like an antibiotic and get rid of HIV. Viruses stay with us forever. Sometimes we are able to create conditions where they don't cause us any problems, and that is where a strong and healthy immune system comes in handy. HIV-1 is the type of HIV that is most commonly found in the United States and Canada. Several subtypes (sometimes referred to as strains) or variants of HIV-1 have been identified, and again, only one, HIV-1 subtype B is common in the United States and Canada.HIV-2 is another type of HIV. HIV-2 is an uncommon virus in the United States and Canada.It is widely accepted in the medical and scientific research community that HIV infection is linked to immune system malfunction and ultimately results in the condition known as AIDS.The only way to know if you have HIV is to have a specific test. In addition to standard blood tests, there are approved HIV tests which use cells from the mouth and tests which use cells in urine. There are also home collection kits which can be used to collect blood samples. Check with your state's HIV hotline to get more information about the tests available in your area.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the result of a weakened immune system caused by HIV infection. AIDS is diagnosed when a person tests positive for HIV and also has one or more of the "opportunistic infections" of AIDS (there are 27) and/or has a laboratory marker test of 200 or fewer T-cells. AIDS should be diagnosed by a physician. The opportunistic infections associated with AIDS are called "AIDS-defining illnesses" and should also be diagnosed by a physician.

Both HIV infection and AIDS are considered to be chronic illnesses managed with both pharmaceutical (pharmacy drugs) therapies and complementary (alternative) therapies. In most cases, people can live for many years with HIV infection and with AIDS. It is usually impossible to know just how long a person will live with AIDS. Today's HIV therapies are extending the lives of persons living with AIDS as well as helping to improve their quality of life.

hiv transmission

How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted by six body fluids: blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid or "pre-cum", vaginal secretions, rectal fluids and nursing mother's breast milk. These fluids must come into contact with a portal of entry such as a mucous membrane (tip of the penis, mouth, vagina, etc.) or an open cut in the skin. HIV cannot pass through intact skin. HIV is only transmitted by behaviors which allow such direct contact with these fluids. Specifically, by sharing hypodermic needles to shoot drugs (this includes skin popping, and the sharing of syringes, cookers and drug use "works"); receiving infected blood, plasma, or body part; and sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Anytime you have direct contact with these risky fluids, you may have been "exposed" to HIV. Should the virus find a portal of entry into your blood stream in sufficient amounts, you may be infected with HIV. 

Which sexual activities will put me at risk?
Any activity where a portal of entry (mouth, tip of the penis, vagina) comes into direct contact with any one or combination of the high-risk fluids. It is recommended that any sexual intercourse (including oral and anal sex) be done with a barrier (such as a latex or polyurethane condom) between partners to guard both people from risky contact.  

Can I get HIV from oral sex?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about transmission. Like all sexual activity, oral sex carries some risk, particularly when one partner or the other is known to be infected with HIV, when either partner's HIV status is not known, and/or when one or the other partner is not monogamous or injects drugs. Numerous studies have demonstrated that oral sex can result in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Abstaining from oral, anal and vaginal sex all together or having sex only with a mutually monogamous, uninfected partner are the only ways that individuals can be completely protected from the sexual transmission of HIV.Measuring the exact risk of HIV transmission as a result of oral sex is very difficult. Since most sexually active individuals practice oral sex in addition to vaginal and/or anal sex, it is difficult to determine whether or not it occurred as a result of oral sex or other more risky sexual activities. Finally, several co-factors can increase the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex, including: oral ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores and the presence of other STDs. For more information, visit the CDC HIV/AIDS Fact Sheets.

hiv testing

How can I get an AIDS test?
One thing to remember is that AIDS is not what the test is determining. The test is for finding out if you have produced HIV antibodies to fight the viral infection of HIV. If the test finds HIV antibodies, you are presumed to be HIV positive. If it does not find them, you are presumed to be HIV negative. This is all very different than receiving an AIDS diagnosis.

Being HIV positive means that you have the viral infection that can lead to AIDS. Having AIDS means that you are HIV positive and have either been sick with a certain type of AIDS opportunistic infection or that your immune system has suffered a measurable loss of cells.

In the State of Florida, any person can be tested for HIV at any of the county health departments and approved community-based organizations.
The Florida HIV/AIDS hotline has a listing of all units which offer HIV tests. Most health departments request an appointment, charge a nominal fee (often on a sliding scale), and offer the test anonymously and/or confidentially.

An anonymous HIV test is a test given to a person without the tester knowing the person's name and address. A confidential HIV test is when the person taking the test gives basic information such as their name, but the name and results do not leave the testing facility.

How long do I have to wait before I get tested?
While you may test positive for HIV within several weeks of infection, The Centers for Disease Control recommends waiting at least three months from the most recent date of exposure in order to get a reliable test. If you choose to get tested prior to three months after the date of exposure, and if your test is negative, that may simply mean that your body hasn't yet produced enough HIV antibodies to show up on the test. The only way to find out is to get tested after the three-month "window period" has passed. 

Blood tests can detect HIV infection sooner after exposure than oral fluid tests because the level of antibody in blood is higher than it is in oral fluid. Likewise, antigen/antibody and RNA tests detect infection in blood before antibody tests. Some newer antigen/antibody lab tests, referred to as “fourth generation testing technology” can sometimes find HIV as soon as 3 weeks after exposure to the virus. No antigen/antibody or RNA tests are available for oral fluid.

It is important to discuss the timeline of a possible risk exposure with your test provider to ensure the type of test you are administered will produce accurate and reliable results. 

What are the types of testing?
You have several HIV testing options. Your health care provider, local clinic, and hospital can offer blood or mouth cells (OMT) testing. You may also purchase a home blood collection kit at a pharmacy to collect the specimen in the privacy of your own home.

A home testing kit can also be purchased at local drugstores. This is the same oral swab test offered at clinics and you may know your results in 20 minutes. Most kits are around $40.

How reliable are the tests and should I trust them?

The test reliability increases with time. The longer you wait from the time of exposure to the time of taking the test, the better the reliability. (If no HIV antibodies appear in your blood within three to six months after exposure, and you haven't participated in any other high-risk behaviors, there is a 99.9% likelihood that you do not have HIV.) The Centers for Disease Control advises that you wait at least three months to take an initial HIV blood test. This will insure a very high reliability of the tests.

HIV/AIDS Symptoms

Symptom-Free Period
Becoming infected with HIV and becoming sick from AIDS are two different events (read about the difference between HIV and AIDS). For most people, it takes many years from the time someone is infected with HIV to the time that they develop symptoms of AIDS. Some people get sick sooner and others stay well longer, especially with treatment. However, there is almost always a significant period of time after infection when an HIV-positive individual will have no symptoms at all -- often 10 years or more.

Keeping in mind the two separate events (becoming HIV-infected vs. actually developing AIDS) can help you to remember that there are also two separate time periods when someone may show symptoms related to HIV-infection. 

Acute Viral Syndrome
The first time period is during the first few weeks after infection from HIV. Some people who are newly infected may develop flu-like symptoms within the first month or so after getting HIV. These early symptoms can feel very much like the flu (fever, headache, weakness, fatigue, body aches, etc.), and they can be mild or severe. The flu-like symptoms typically last for only about week, and then go away on their own. Acute Viral Syndrome is not an ongoing condition that lasts for weeks and weeks or that comes and goes over a long period of time. In addition, it's important to know that:
                       
1. Not everyone who is infected with HIV will experience these early, flu-like symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome.  Many people will have no symptoms at all until years after infection.

2. The symptoms of Acute Viral Syndrome are the same as the symptoms for the flu and many other illnesses. If you have these symptoms right after a possible exposure to HIV, it does not mean you that have the virus, or even that you probably have it. The only way to find out if you have HIV is to get an HIV test.

Symptoms of AIDS
Because AIDS is a disorder of the immune system, it makes people sick by making their bodies vulnerable to a wide variety of illnesses (opportunistic infections), each with its own symptoms. For this reason, there isn't a simple checklist of "AIDS symptoms". Two people who are both sick with AIDS can have completely different sets of symptoms (or even no symptoms at all).

If you have symptoms that are bothering you or that aren't going away, your best option is to be checked by a health care provider. Any symptom that could be a sign of AIDS could also be a sign of something else. Again, the only way to know if you are HIV-positive is to take an HIV test.

HIV/AIDS Statistics

Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section
Stop The Spread
Keeping in mind the two separate events (becoming HIV-infected vs. actually developing AIDS) can help you to remember that there are also two separate time periods when someone may show symptoms related to HIV-infection. 

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
HIV/AIDS Basic Statistics
Easy-to-read summary reports based on the CDC semiannual HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report (the comprehensive report is also available).

UNAIDS: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
AIDS Epidemic Update
Global HIV/AIDS statistics and epidemiological fact sheets by country.

Financial Assistance for Floridians with HIV/AIDS

Florida's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)
ADAP is intended to help HIV positive people stay healthy by assisting with the purchase of HIV prescription medications. ADAP provides HIV drug treatments for people who are uninsured or do not have adequate prescription coverage. 

Who Is Eligible For ADAP In Florida?
To be eligible you must:
Be HIV positive with proof from a physician,
Have an income less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines,
Be uninsured or without adequate prescription coverage, and 
Not confined to a hospital, nursing home, hospice, or correctional facility.

Who Is Not Eligible For ADAP In Florida?
Persons: in institutional care (i.e. hospital or correctional facility),
with health insurance that covers pharmaceuticals or Medicaid,
with an income above 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and 
Persons with assets over $25,000, excluding a home and car.

How Do I Enroll In ADAP?
Visit your local County Health Department and complete the application. Unfortunately, due to limited funding, not everyone who applies for services and is otherwise eligible will receive services. Should ADAP services be unavailable, other possible funding options can be sought with the assistance of a case manager or health department staff.

What Do I Need?
At time of enrollment you need to have in hand: Your HIV positive documentation, prescriptions from a Florida licensed doctor, current (less than four months) viral load and/or CD4 test results.

What Medicines Are Covered By ADAP?
The Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, Bureau of Communicable Diseases maintains a listing current ADAP medicines.

Important
If you do not qualify for ADAP, you may still qualify for Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) and Patient Assistance Programs (PAP).  There are over 180 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies that provide free or low-cost drugs for individuals who cannot afford to pay for them.  Each program has specific eligibility criteria and coverage. You can find further information at:
1-888-477-2669
NeedyMeds
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Positivelyaware.com

Florida's Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA)What is HOPWA?
The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS, known as HOPWA, is funded through a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide states and designated eligible metropolitan areas with resources and incentives for meeting the housing needs of persons with HIV and AIDS. The Department of Health, which contracts with lead agency organizations at the local level, administers Florida's HOPWA program.

What Services are Provided?
The state HOPWA program provides temporary housing assistance to eligible individuals. Transitional housing, assistance with rent, mortgage, utilities and supportive services (such as case management) services are provided to income eligible individuals with documented HIV disease and their families. Services not approved include: payments which exceed actual costs, payments made directly to clients, cash payments of any kind (including checks made out to cash), property taxes that are not included in mortgage payments, long distance telephone charges, fines and penalties, down payment or closing costs on a home. HOPWA is not available in every county. To learn more, contact the HOPWA lead agencies.

Aids Fraud

The HIV/AIDS Hotline has received reports about fraudulent activities associated with HIV/AIDS. If you know or suspect a business or person is selling or advertising fraudulent health products or services you can help stop them and protect others by reporting it. You can report health fraud in Florida by calling the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS.

What You Should Know About AIDS Fraud
Health care fraud in general is a serious problem. No part of the health care system is free of fraud - not supplies, hospitals, insurers, home health care or even physicians. Specifically, AIDS fraud is the promotion of an AIDS-related health product, treatment, or service known to be false or labeled with unsupported claims. Fraud can include, but is not limited to: treatment, nutrition, mechanical devices, burial fees, drugs and supplements. Victims of fraud may include partners, family and friends as well.

AIDS Fraud Is Expensive
Fraudulent products and services can be expensive; they waste your money, and health insurance does not pay for them. Be wary of any AIDS product, treatment, or service that seems to have an unusually high cost, or carries an "extra charge" just because someone has HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Fraud Is Dangerous
If you use products or services that don't work you may delay getting proper medical care. Your illness may also get worse. There are legitimate treatments that extend life and improve the quality of life in persons with AIDS or HIV infection, even though there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Fraudulent products are not scientifically tested. If you use fraudulent products, they may hurt you. You could even die.

You Can Help Stop AIDS Fraud
Be suspicious of statements that promise quick and painless cures for AIDS, or those treatments that are "special", "foreign", "secret", "miraculous", "ancient" or "easy". Ask questions of the promoters regarding the product's approval and side effects. Request all printed material on the product and its promoters.

AIDS Fraud-Fighting Resources
The following resources provide reliable information about HIV/AIDS treatments:
HIV and AIDS Activities
New Mexico AIDS InfoNet
QuackWatch

How To Recognize Quacks and Frauds
•  The practitioner states that he/she is a medical professional but has a name that is followed by titles, degrees, or credentials which are unknown or unidentifiable.

•  The practitioner claims that most or all Americans are poorly nourished.

•  Claims are made that medical treatments are dangerous.

•  Supplements are recommended for everyone.

•  Disclaimers are couched in pseudo-medical jargon.

•  Product is marketed with testimonials and anecdotes. Empirical (scientific) data is missing, dated, or conducted in a clinic or setting with no known reputation.

•  The practitioner claims that he/she, the product, or both are being suppressed by the government.

•  The product is marketed with terms such as, "ancient", "newly emerging research", "mystical", or "secret."

•  The product is marketed to treat most every illness and condition under the sun.

•  Product is "experimental", yet you will be charged to purchase or use it.



Putting the Pieces Together: A Companion Guide for Improving Nutrition and Food Safety for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS 
Many health fraud scammers use diet and nutrition as a means of hooking the public. For people with HIV and cancer, these scams can be ruinous for both the person's health and wallet. The Florida Health Fraud Coalition has published the "Putting the Pieces Together" nutrition guide book as a means of foiling the hawkers of fraudulent products and treatments, and of informing clients and practitioners about the special dietary needs of the HIV infected and people with wasting syndrome.

This is the 4th Edition of Putting the Pieces Together. It was compiled and edited by the Florida Health Fraud Coalition. The project was originally conceived by the WIC and Nutrition Unit of the Pasco County Health Department. It is funded by the FDA and by the Florida Department of Health HIV/AIDS Section, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, Bureau of Communicable Diseases.

It is intended to be used by people living with HIV/AIDS and the nutritionists and dietitians who serve them. The directory is available here as an Adobe Acrobat file. To view and print this file, you will need the free Adobe Acrobat reader.

Remember, you can report AIDS health fraud by calling the Florida HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS or by sending a trained counselor an email.