HIV Testing Resumes at the Pride Center

Pride Center HIV Prevention Staff. Photo by Julian Alternman

South Florida continues to lead the country in new HIV infections. To help stem the tide of these new infections, the Pride Center in Wilton Manors is once again providing testing and will link people to medical resources and other helpful services. The staff provides information about staying negative with PrEP and gives out free condoms. 

“It was heartbreaking when we had to pause our prevention services while the Department of Health worked on a new, three-year prevention contracts for all the prevention providers in Broward County,” said Shanna Ratliff, HIV prevention manager at the Pride Center.  “Our communities deserve culturally proficient HIV prevention services. And so many people seek them daily at the Pride Center. That’s why we’re so thankful for the Department of Health’s new prevention funding.”

The center’s new, three-year grant from the Department of Health funds several services including:

Condom distribution– This is not only at the center but also at businesses across the community to ensure people can access condoms at no cost. 

Prevention with Positives Work – This includes the award-winning Learning Immune Function Enhancement (LIFE) Program. This is a 12-week wellness-counseling program for gay and bisexual men living with HIV.

Community Engagement Initiative – Finding engaged community partners is key to prevention. This funding helps the center specifically and strategically target LGBT-owned and focused businesses and LGBT-affirming communities of faith. 

By collaborating with these vital partners, the center can disseminate targeted HIV prevention messages among LGBT businesses and their customers.

Social media and marketing campaigns – Social media is a part of many people’s lives. The Pride staff provides intensive prevention work every single day on social media—Facebook, Grindr, Twitter, Scruff, Instagram, Growlr, YouTube, Snapchat and more. And it’s finding new, creative ways to engage with the community using language and images that meet them where they are. 

Beginning in June, the center will also provide Personalized Cognitive Counseling (PCC) as an effective, individualized risk reduction intervention for gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals at high-risk for becoming infected with HIV. PCC focuses on the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs used when deciding to engage in risky sexual behavior. This is a highly personalized, one-on-one service. Do you know someone who keeps getting tested for HIV and keeps engaging in unprotected anal sex? Maybe a sit-down session with one of the counselors could help.

All HIV prevention services provided by the Pride Center are free of charge. HIV testing services are available for anyone who is at-risk for contracting HIV or who may think they are at-risk. The LIFE program is free for any gay, bisexual or other same-gender-loving men living with HIV. 

Currently HIV testing is available on the center’s campus, M-W-F from 11 a.m. to 7p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday by appointment. Testing is also offered off-site at locations like the Club Fort Lauderdale and 321 Slammer late-nights and on weekends. 

“When people receive an HIV test from us, they also receive vital risk-reduction counseling and hands-on linkage to the services they need,” Ratliffsaid. “If someone tests reactive, they’re going to be surrounded by support and empowerment. We’re also going to ensure they receive services from the Florida Department of Health’s Test and Treat Program. For those testing negative who remain at high-risk for infection, we provide vital prevention counseling and help them access essential prevention services, including PrEP and PeP. We’re here to answer questions. We’re here to help individuals access other services that can help them stay healthy from a holistic perspective—linking them to mental health services, housing services, substance abuse services and others. People return here time-and-again to get tested because they feel connected personally.”