With its roots in serving the HIV positive and LGBTQ+ communities, METRO is proud to provide inclusive community health services for over 25 years, no judgement and stigma-free. Today, METRO offers testing, treatment and case management and care in partnership with CAN Community Health
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Only humans can contract it, and it attacks the immune system. While one’s immune system usually fights off infection, HIV causes the immune system to not work the way it should. There are three stages of HIV: acute, chronic, then AIDS.
AIDS is the third and final stage of HIV, and it stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. At this stage, the virus can do major damage to your immune system. If not medicated, and without a proactive lifestyle change in a previous stage, can include: swollen lymph nodes, a fever that lasts more than ten days, purple spots that don’t go away, and unexplained weight loss.
HIV can be found in bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. This means it can be transmitted through penetrative (anal or vaginal) sex, blood transfusion or organ donation (extremely rare due to rigorous screening processes). Additionally, HIV can be transmitted via sharing contaminated needles, and between mother and infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
However, you cannot transmit or contract HIV through casual contact, like hugging, touching the same surfaces, or contact sports. Stigma around HIV/AIDS often comes from misinformation or misunderstanding.
Symptoms may vary depending on the individual, their CD4 (or “t-cell”) count, and the stage of HIV progression. To begin with, acute HIV may share symptoms with a lot of common ailments: headache, fatigue, aching muscles, and a sore throat.
Chronic HIV is a bit different. At this point, the almost flu-like symptoms of the acute stage leave, and an asymptomatic stage begins. This stage can last up to ten years, during which HIV can still be transmitted.
Lastly, if HIV progresses to AIDS, the immune system is severely depleted. This increases the risk of developing illnesses and infections that the body would normally suppress. Symptoms of AIDs can include swollen lymph nodes, a fever that lasts more than ten days, discoloration, and unexplained weight loss.
Fortunately, HIV-related mortality is on the decline and medical treatment of HIV has come a long way. Still, it’s important to get tested quickly if you may have been exposed and/or experience related symptoms.
This depends on a lot of factors. The length of time can vary widely between different people living with HIV. It can be 10–15 years, sometimes longer or sometimes shorter.
Today, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) can prevent progression to AIDS by decreasing viral load in an infected body, to the point of undetectable status.
That means there is so little of virus in your body, it can’t be detected by a test. Additionally, it means you can stay healthy, and the likelihood of spreading the virus to partners decreases. This may be achieved through HIV medical care including antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Fortunately, there are several ways to help prevent the spread of HIV. When it comes to sexual health, prevention often starts with knowing your HIV status and having open conversations with sexual partners. These conversations are unique and personal, but you’re not alone — METRO’s Prevention & Sexual Health specialists can answer your questions, provide free HIV testing, and help you navigate difficult conversations. Additionally, we provide support groups for people living with HIV in Tampa Bay and beyond, including specialized programs for those in magnetic (+/-) relationships.
Once you know your status and risk factors, behavioral changes can have a big impact on your risk of HIV transmission. For example, consistent and correct use of external (“male”) or internal (“female”) condoms, choosing non-penetrative sexual activities, and — if you’re an injecting drug user — always using new or medically sterilized disposable needles and syringes.
Today, there are medical treatments to prevent HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a once-a-day preventative medicine that helps protect from HIV. Read our PrEP FAQs here! If you have a close call or think you may be at risk for HIV, you can also take nPEP. If taken within 72 hours of a high-risk experience, nPEP can significantly reduce your chances of contracting HIV.
HIV cannot be cured, but it can be treated and it is absolutely possible to live a long, healthy life with this diagnosis. Medical treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART), and it works to reduce your viral load, or the amount of HIV present in the body. It’s important to start treatment as soon as possible if you test positive for HIV.
With our partner CAN Community Health, METRO remains the only Tampa Bay organization offering primary care alongside HIV care, treatment, and case management. Medical Case Management includes linkage to necessary services and an emphasis on medical disease management and treatment adherence. The goal is to assist clients in becoming increasingly self-sufficient with an improvement in overall wellbeing.
Metro Inclusive Health provides 3 types of HIV tests: INSTI, blood-based, and Orasure.
⏲ The INSTI test is commonly known as the “1 minute HIV test”, and can very accurately identify a patient as HIV positive 21-22 days post-exposure.
🩸 The blood-based test is completed by drawing a blood sample for the lab. This test is considered the best available and can detect the virus in as little as 10-14 days after exposure. Results provided within 3 days.
👄 The OraQuick test is an oral swab test.
Now with results in about a minute, everyone should know their status. Learn yours and about advanced treatment and prevention options. Our certified staff offer three types of testing:
Ask About Testing Together. Couples, spouses, or individuals in a sexual relationship have the option to get tested and receive results at the same time.
Designed for all segments of our community, METRO’s social and educational programs create space to discuss sexual health & prevention, living with HIV, sexuality and culture, and more with like-minded peers.
With our partner CAN Community Health, METRO remains the only area organization offering primary care alongside HIV care, treatment and case management. We offer over 100 services, including pharmacy, mental health and community programming, under one roof. Above all, we connects patients to physical and emotional care services needed for optimal health and wellbeing.
With our advanced knowledge, we help HIV+ patients get to “undetectable” status. That means there is so little of virus in your body, it can’t be detected by a test. It also means you can stay healthy, and the likelihood of spreading the virus to partners decreases. Undetectable = Untransmittable!
Treatments have become more simplified and streamlined. Because of access to federal, state and local partners, we’re not only first in line to know the latest in advanced HIV treatments, we make it our business to stay on top of how they apply to each individual patient.
We are here to help you understand your options. For instance, METRO Case Managers can connect you to medications, insurance assistance, housing assistance, food pantries, and other programs. Additionally, Florida residents who are living with HIV may be eligible for assistance via the Ryan White Treatment Modernization Act.
Medical Case Management includes linkage to necessary services and an emphasis on medical disease management and treatment adherence. Above all, our goal is to assist clients in becoming increasingly self-sufficient with an improvement in overall wellbeing. Learn more about our community specific case management services.
Medical Case Management includes a holistic approach with linkage to necessary services and an emphasis on health management and treatment adherence. Learn more about our programs for:
Health Education & Risk Reduction (HERR) is a program that provides individual and group education & support sessions for those living with HIV. In a fun and safe environment, we cover topics like navigating health insurance, relationships, medication, and more. Health Educators can also help with:
HERR is conducted in English & Spanish. You do not need to be enrolled in Ryan White Case Management to participate.