News release: Annual World AIDS Day Dec. 1 calls for renewed commitment to fighting the disease

News Release
November 25, 2014

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Annual World AIDS Day Dec. 1 calls for renewed commitment to fighting the disease

HIV testing and public awareness events planned

As World AIDS Day December 1 approaches, state health officials are calling attention to the fact that the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS occurring each year in Minnesota has not declined over the last decade. Minnesota continues to see about 300 new cases each year. Effective new treatments and medications can reduce this trend - only if people get tested at earlier stages of their HIV infection.

“The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not over and the disease continues to spread locally and abroad,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health (MDH). “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.”

According to World Health Organization estimates, 35 million are living with HIV worldwide with about 2.3 million that became 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 one in five people living with HIV/AIDS don’t know they are infected.

An estimated 7,723 people are reported to be living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, and an average of 300 new infections have been diagnosed each year for the last decade.

“Communities with higher infection rates in Minnesota tend to have fewer educational opportunities and have limited access to health care and culturally specific programs,” 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.

“We must continue to renew and intensify our efforts to prevent new HIV infections from occurring and getting those who are infected into care,” said Ehlinger. “Research has shown that early diagnosis and getting infected persons into treatment and care can reduce infection rates.”

Health officials noted that new HIV treatments are effective in stopping the spread of the disease and allowing infected persons to live longer and healthier lives. There are now medications to help non-infected persons at risk from getting HIV infection. While the new treatments and medications could help to reduce the number of new cases, the key will be to get people tested earlier to take advantage of them. Currently in Minnesota approximately one out of three HIV/AIDS cases are diagnosed at later stages of infection, missing years of beneficial treatment and unknowingly spreading the disease to others.

“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,” said Ehlinger.

The STD/HIV/TB Section at MDH currently funds 20 agencies and the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health funds 6 agencies aimed at preventing the spread of HIV in adults and young people of all races who inject drugs and/or engage in sexual behaviors that transmit HIV.

Health officials emphasize that HIV remains highly preventable by 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. For those non-infected persons unable to adhere to prevention techniques, daily medications are available to help reduce their chance of getting HIV.

“For this year’s World AIDS Day, our community partners and funded agencies have set-up several free educational and HIV testing opportunities,” said Ehlinger. The MDH website offers a World AIDS Day calendar consisting of free educational and HIV testing events:
In a proclamation marking this year’s observance, Gov. Mark Dayton called for all Minnesotans to educate themselves about the risks and testing opportunities for HIV and demonstrate compassion for those infected and affected by HIVand 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……

Monday, Dec. 1, La Clinica, 153 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul (8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.): 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.

Monday, Dec. 1, Aliveness Project, 3808 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407: 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.

Monday, 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.

Monday, Dec. 1, Open Cities Health Center, 409 N. Dunlap St., St. Paul, MN 55104: HIV/AIDS Stigma Discussion (6:00 – 8:00 p.m.)
Free presentation and discussion with expert speaker on HIV/AIDS stigma. Dinner to follow - RSVP at 651-251-5987.

Wednesday, Dec. 3, Capri Theatre, 2027 W. Broadway, Minneapolis, MN 55411: Sarah Simmons Showcase World AIDS Day Observance (5:00 – 7:00 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, open to the public.

Saturday, Dec. 6, Family Tree Clinic, 1619 Dayton Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104: Deaf AIDS Day (1:00 – 4:00 p.m.)
Poetry, spelling game, AIDS Quilt display, awareness booth and refreshments will be part of this commemoration for those living or have died of HIV/AIDS. Free, open to the public.

Monday - Friday, Dec. 8 - 12, Open Cities Health Center, 409 N. Dunlap St., St. Paul, MN 55104: National World AIDS Day Information and HIV Testing for Walk-ins (9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. each day)
Free HIV testing and consultation with expert staff for walk-ins. No appointments necessary.


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications