New strain of HIV discovered, Tampa Bay area clinic offering free testing

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Scientists have discovered the first new strain of HIV in nearly two decades. 

According to Abbott Laboratories who conducted the study, the strain is a part of the Group M version of HIV-1, the same family of virus subtypes to blame for the global HIV pandemic.

“Don’t panic, don’t be alarmed by it. It’s not unusual to see new strains in the most common things such as the flu. We don’t know much about it at this point but what we do know is it does underlie the importance of being tested and prevention,” said Brian Bailey with Metro Health. 

Metro Health focuses on wellness services in the Tampa Bay area, especially HIV testing for Floridians.  

“HIV is no longer a death sentence and it hasn’t been for a very long time,” said Bailey.  

By 2017, Florida had thirteen percent of all of the HIV diagnoses in the country. 

According to the Florida Department of Health, there were almost 5,000 new HIV diagnoses just last year.

“Unfortunately, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have both been identified by the CDC as two of the most burden counties when it comes to the HIV rise and that is among the country,” said Bailey. 

Metro Health hopes the news about the latest strain will serve as a reminder for the public to get tested and take preventative measures against HIV.  

“One preventative measure is PrEP, a daily pill that is 99% effective in preventing HIV,” said Bailey.  

HIV testing takes around one minute at any of the Metro Health Centers across the Tampa Bay area. 

“It is very important to be tested on a regular basis. Typically, every 90 days is what we recommend. You actually get your results in about a minute so there is no excuse to not know your status in this day and age,” said Bailey.  

For more information about HIV testing and Metro Health, please visit their website here.

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