December 1st marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. This is a time to remember the 25 million people with HIV/AIDS who have died since the beginning of this epidemic.
As we remember those who have died, we must also remember those men, women and children who are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The most recent data from 2006 reports approximately 1.1 million individuals living with the virus in the U.S. Worldwide the number infected is estimated at 33 million.
In addition to those who know they are living with HIV, there are many others who don’t know they are infected. The latest estimates from the CDC tell us that about one in five people living with HIV in the U.S. in 2006 – 21%, or 232,700 total people – were unaware of their infections.
In WNC, there has been a steady increase in the number people who are testing positive for both HIV and syphilis over the past few months. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can sometimes be hard to recognize. Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for serious health problems if they aren’t treated.
What should be done?
Far too many HIV-infected people in the U.S. are still diagnosed late in the course of infection—38% within a year of developing AIDS. HIV testing is the first step in slowing the spread of the disease.
Testing for HIV is available at no charge at any local heath department. In an effort to reduce further transmission of syphilis as well, North Carolina health departments test for it at the same time they test for HIV.
HIV and AIDS are not limited to a specific age group, population, or socio-economic group. Anyone who has had unprotected sex should consider having a test for HIV. Think about friends or relatives and encourage them to be tested at one of these locations:
- Buncombe County Health Center – 250-5109
- WNC Community Health Services – 285-0622
- Planned Parenthood – 252-7928
- Any local health department
For more information: