MINNEAPOLIS — December 1 is World AIDS Day – an observance to remind us that HIV/AIDS remains one of the most devastating worldwide epidemics.
“Despite the tremendous progress made in responding to the epidemic over the past three decades, the annual number of new HIV cases has not declined and remains unacceptably high,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health (MDH). “We still haven’t found a reliable cure or vaccine against HIV infection and the data make it clear we need to do more. We need to focus on what we know works and explore new and more effective approaches to prevention and treatment.”
According to World Health Organization estimates, 35 million people are living with HIV worldwide with about 2 million becoming infected last year. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50,000 people continue to be infected with HIV each year and that 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV. CDC estimates that about one in eight are unaware of their HIV infection in the U.S.
In Minnesota, over the last 10 years an average of 300 new infections have been diagnosed each year – highlighting the fact that HIV/AIDS case numbers are not dropping. An estimated 7,988 people are reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in the state.
“A troubling concern is that we continue to see higher infection rates persisting among certain communities,” said Ehlinger. Gay/bi-sexual men, other men who have sex with men, and men and women of color continue to have disproportionate HIV rates. This is particularly true among African Americans, Latinos and American Indian communities.
Communities with higher infection rates in Minnesota tend to have fewer educational opportunities and have limited access to health care and culturally specific programs. “We need to target and intensify our efforts to lower the annual number of HIV cases occurring among these communities. The time to act is now,” said Ehlinger.
Health officials noted that MDH currently funds 26 agency programs to expand testing and prevent the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who inject drugs and/or engage in sexual behaviors that transmit HIV.
“We now know that early diagnosis and getting HIV infected persons into treatment and care can prevent the spread of the disease,” said Ehlinger. CDC recommends that everyone aged 13 through 64 be tested at least once as part of routine health care. “HIV infection remains preventable and we all have a part in educating our family and community members about it.”
HIV infection can be prevented by avoiding or delaying the start of sexual activity, using latex condoms consistently and correctly, knowing your HIV status by getting tested, and avoiding the sharing of needles or equipment to tattoo, body pierce or inject drugs.
For those at very high risk of getting HIV, a daily prevention pill is now available. This is referred to as PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Very high risk persons that would benefit from PrEP would be injection drug users and those who have many sexual partners without using condoms. You must see a doctor in order to get on PrEP. Health providers can play a vital role by discussing PrEP and other ways to prevent HIV with their patients. “Since we’re not seeing the number of new HIV cases going down, we must make the most of all available HIV prevention options,” said Ehlinger.
For World AIDS Day, MDH community partners and funded agencies have set-up several free educational and HIV testing opportunities. The MDH website offers a World AIDS Day calendar highlighting these events at World AIDS Day 2015: Getting to Zero.
In a proclamation marking this year’s observance, Gov. Mark Dayton called for all Minnesotans to educate themselves about HIV, know their HIV status, practice prevention, seek care if infected, and show compassion for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day has been held annually since 1988 under the sponsorship of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and recently through the organization, World AIDS Campaign. More than 200 countries worldwide annually observe World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day activities will occur throughout December
……in Minnesota, here are some sample event listings……
Tuesday, Dec. 1, La Clinica, 153 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul (8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.): “No Tengas Miedo” World AIDS Day Event
The No Tengas Miedo program will provide free HIV testing for the Latino MSM community. Educational games with prizes for everyone. Walk-ins welcome.
Tuesday, Dec. 1, First Choice Clinic, 1755 Old West Main Street, Red Wing, MN 55066: World AIDS Day STD and HIV Testing Event (9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
Free confidential STD and HIV testing for appointments or walk-ins.
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Aliveness Project, 3808 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55409: The Aliveness Project’s World AIDS Day HIV Testing Event(10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
Free HIV testing for walk-ins. No appointments necessary.
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) Downtown Campus (2nd level Skyway between the Red and Purple Buildings), 701 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55415: HCMC World AIDS Day Resource Fair (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
Free HIV/AIDS resource fair with agency exhibits, fun, games, prizes and more.
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Capri Theatre, 2027 W. Broadway, Minneapolis, MN 55411: Sarah Simmons Showcase World AIDS Day Observance: “Talent, Tacos & Testing” (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.)
In memory of local AIDS advocate Sarah Simmons, on-stage performances will be held to highlight the impact that HIV/AIDS has had on the local African and African American communities. Free and public welcome!
Tuesday, Dec. 1, Augsburg College, Hoversten Chapel, Foss Center, 625 22nd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55454: World AIDS Day Forum: Getting to Zero New HIV Infections with PrEP (7:00 p.m.)
Join the Minnesota AIDS Project, the HIM Program at Red Door Service, and Augsburg College for a World AIDS Day forum on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – an extremely effective new tool to reinvigorate HIV prevention efforts.
Wednesday, Dec. 2, Common Roots Café, 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55405: Connect Local, Impact Global: World AIDS Day Happy Hour (5:00 – 7:00 p.m.)
RESULTS Twin Cities will host a discussion about the challenges of the AIDS epidemic, Twin Cities organizations fighting AIDS, and action needed for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Free and public welcome! Refreshments provided.
Saturday, Dec. 5, Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St., Minneapolis, MN 55409: 12th Annual African World AIDS Day Event (12:00 – 4:00 p.m.)
The African World AIDS Day (AWAD) Planning Committee is hosting its annual event in observance of AWAD. The event will feature a live band, door prizes, big giveaways, agency exhibits, free HIV testing, free health screenings and blood pressure checks, and free refreshments.
Saturday, Dec. 5, Bread of Life Lutheran Church, 2901 38th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55104: 20th Annual Deaf AIDS Day (1:00 – 4:00 p.m.)
This event will focus on the HIV/AIDS challenges faced by the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing communities. Free and public welcome!
For additional information about World AIDS Day, visit the MDH web site at: World AIDS Day 2015: Getting to Zero