Editorial - A new call for action in fight against AIDSAIDS victims are still dying. There is no cure. People should be educating themselves to learn about the risks of the disease and the testing that is available. They should also be demonstrating compassion for those who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
AIDS victims are still dying. There is no cure.
People should be educating themselves to learn about the risks of the disease and the testing that is available. They should also be demonstrating compassion for those who are infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
This Saturday, December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time to reflect on the impact of HIV, the lives that have been saved and the lives lost. Health leaders are also marking that day with a new call to action – “Getting to Zero.”
“This is the new battle cry for the world to rally around striving for zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS related deaths,” said Peter Carr, director of a section of Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) that deals with AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. “Just looking at the numbers, we definitely have an uphill challenge ahead.”
As much as the general public may want to close its eyes to the problem, the numbers are all too real: Worldwide, there are currently 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV and 48,100 new HIV cases occur each year in the U.S.
An estimated 7,136 people are reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, and an average of 300 new infections are diagnosed each year. Health leaders say that this underscores the fact that HIV/AIDS continues to be a major public health issue in our state.
“In Minnesota, our greatest concern is that HIV continues to have a greater impact on certain communities,” said Carr. “These communities tend to be the most vulnerable and have fewer opportunities to make the choices that allow them to live healthy lives.”
Carr added that HIV infection remains highly preventable. Ways to prevent HIV infection include avoiding or delaying the start of sexual activity, using latex condoms consistently and correctly, avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs, and knowing your HIV status by getting tested.
“New research is showing that early diagnosis and getting infected persons into treatment and care can prevent the spread of HIV – but many people are not being tested,” said Carr. “The good news is that there are several HIV testing and educational events set-up for the World AIDS Day observance as well as 21 MDH funded community-based programs serving the most affected communities that will be accessible throughout the year beginning in 2013 through 2014.”
Alexandria is among the thousands of communities that will once again observe Worlds AIDS Day. The public is invited to gather tomorrow, November 29 in remembrance of friends and family members who have died of AIDS in rural Minnesota. A free educational event will begin at 4 p.m. in the downstairs fellowship hall of First Congregational Church in Alexandria. Jean Willis from Gilead Pharmaceuticals will be the speaker. A dinner will follow at 5:30 p.m. A candlelight memorial service will begin at 6 p.m.
The event is co-sponsored by the Rural AIDS Action Network, Gilead Pharmaceuticals, and First Congregational Church. To assist in planning, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (320) 209-1181.