World AIDS Day 2019

What is World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Why is World AIDS Day important?

UNAIDS estimates that 37.9 million people throughout the world have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, which makes it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

Today, great scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV, and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the US over 38,000 people are diagnosed with HIV. Many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Ending the HIV epidemic is not aspirational; it is doable. Science has provided us with the tools. Together, we can complete this mission.

How common is HIV?

An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States have HIV, including about 162,500 people who are unaware of their status. Nearly 40% of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus. For people with undiagnosed HIV, testing is the first step in maintaining a healthy life and reducing the spread of HIV.

Every person 13-64 years of age should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. Some people would benefit from more frequent testing, depending on their risk. Find out more about HIV, free testing, and other ways to reduce your risks below.

Montana can celebrate that 92% of the 700 persons living with HIV, and known to be in treatment in Montana, have undetectable viral loads, which improves and protects their health as well as their partners. The percent of people with HIV, who have progressed to AIDS at the time of their diagnosis, continues to decrease, and is now below 25%. Learn more about our Ryan White program for HIV clients.

How are we going to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic?

Nationally:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative. The goal is to reduce new HIV incidence by 90 percent over the next decade in the United States. This initiative involves numerous federal agencies working in unison under the leadership of HHS.

HHS is collaborating with state, local, territorial, and tribal leaders across the country. Community members are engaged in helping find new ways to increase diagnoses and link more people to prevention and treatment. Solutions defined by the community, for the community, and in the community, as well as informed interventions built on a solid foundation of scientific excellence, will help secure future gains and continued progress toward HIV epidemic control.

Statewide:

Montana’s Department of Health & Human Services (DPHHS) supports HIV treatment and prevention programs. They are committed to ending the epidemic in Montana by helping local health departments with planning, performing HIV prevention activities, and ensuring access to HIV treatment.

The Ryan White Care Act provides life-saving medication to hundreds of Montanans with HIV. Access to health care and treatment is critical because it allows persons with HIV to improve their health outcomes and live longer, more productive lives.

The number of new infections reported annually in Montana is fairly stable, averaging 20 people per year. However, given the recent increase in other sexually transmitted diseases (STD), officials are concerned that they could see additional HIV infections in the next few years. Certain STDs that result in ulcers or lesions can increase a person’s susceptibility to infection with HIV.

Locally:

Here in Cascade County, 2 to 3 people are infected with HIV per year. At the Cascade City-County Health Department, we provide free or low-cost testing that can help you learn whether you have been infected with HIV in as little as 20 minutes.

Cascade City-County Health Department is a Ryan White Case Management site (one of seven in Montana), where you can get a case manager to connect you to healthcare, coordinate treatment, and be your advocate.

For instance, a case manager can explain medication options to you and help you find a doctor.

There have been many recent advances in HIV prevention. One example is PrEP (short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”), in which people at high risk for acquiring HIV take a daily pill that is proven to reduce the risk of infection.

For people who are already infected with HIV, getting on the right HIV medications can lower the amount of virus in your blood and keep you from spreading it to other people by sex.

Know your status!

The best way to put an end to this epidemic is to know your status and, if you are not HIV+, take steps to prevent infection.

To lower an individual’s risk of HIV infection, we recommend the following:

  • Reduce the number of sexual partners or remain in a long-term monogamous relationship
  • Talk to your partner about HIV and use latex condoms every time you have sex
  • Have an honest and open discussion with your health care provider about your sexual history and ask if you should be tested for STDs and HIV

You can come by CCHD for a walk-in appointment and get tested for HIV or other STDs.

Hours for testing (walk-in)

Monday through Friday: 8–11:30am & 1–4:30pm

For more information on HIV, contact CCHD’s Sarah Cozino at 406-791-9279.