Many health professionals see World AIDS Day as an opportunity to recommit to their battle against the disease by bringing greater awareness to it.
On Dec. 1, Minnesota health officials are planning free educational events and providing HIV testing to promote public awareness of the disease.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton encourages residents to regularly test for HIV, increase their awareness of the sickness and show compassion for people with the disease.
Despite ongoing efforts, Minnesota’s AIDS statistics are not improving. Health records show that Minnesota has 300 new AIDS cases each year. Approximately 7,723 Minnesota residents have HIV/AIDS. This rate has not diminished in 10 years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are 35 million people living with HIV around the world, and 2.3 million new cases were reported just last year. Approximately 1.2 million people live with HIV today. Each year 50,000 people contract HIV.
Many people do not realize that one out of every five people with HIV/AIDS does not know that he or she has the disease.
“The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not over, and the disease continues to spread locally and abroad,” Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health (MDH), said. “We are not seeing a decline in the number of new HIV cases occurring each year. World AIDS Day is an opportunity to renew our commitment to confront one of the most devastating epidemics the world has had to face over the last 30 years.”
Healthcare professionals explain that AIDS rates will decrease if people regularly test for HIV. As with many illnesses, treatment is best received at the earliest stages of the disease. New treatments enable patients to live healthier — and longer — lives.
Now there are other treatments that help prevent non-infected persons from contracting HIV. The key is detecting the disease as early as possible.
“We must continue to renew and intensify our efforts to prevent new HIV infections from occurring and getting those who are infected into care,” Ehlinger said. “Research has shown that early diagnosis and getting infected persons into treatment and care can reduce infection rates. In Minnesota, we are trying to expand the HIV testing opportunities and prevention services in communities with higher infection rates by funding programs that directly serve these populations.”
The best preventative measures against HIV/AIDS include sexual abstinence, using latex condoms, postponing the onset of sexual activity, and avoiding dirty needles used for drugs, piercings or tattoos.