Free HIV/AIDS Testing Available in Lehigh Acres, Fla.

This article was reported by Lehigh Acres Citizen.

Lehigh Acres Citizen reported on Emmanuel Mendez, an HIV testing counselor who urges everyone to get tested if they have had unprotected sex, shared needles, or married someone who may have used needles or had unprotected sex. In Lehigh, Fla., the counselor and two volunteers recently set up free testing services on the Lehigh Community Services lot during a Harry Chapin Food Bank distribution program to be available to anyone who wanted HIV testing. He administered instant tests and referred those who had positive results to a physician.

Mendez is a tester with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Fort Myers, Fla. He and volunteers travel to different areas of Lee County and encourage people to get tested, counsel those who are upset with the positive result, and educate them about the HIV medications and how these drugs can help them live longer lives. He noted that some clients are concerned about the cost of HIV/AIDS drugs, but he explained that there are grants and other ways to pay for the medications. Mendez also urged local organizations to contact him when they planned events so he could attend and offer free testing. Mendez noted that 40 percent of those tested were positive and were totally unaware that they had been infected.

In addition to attending events, Mendez and associates hold monthly testing in Lehigh at a private room at Lehigh Community Services. They advocate condom use for all sexual activity. He commented that many people in Lee County may not be aware they are infected, but that it is better to get tested and begin treatment immediately to increase the chances of living a normal life. Individuals who want to be tested at the Fort Myers office can call Mendez at (239) 337-2391, extension 220, or at (239) 478-3056.