World AIDS Day is Dec. 1
by Rory Doyle
Nov 30, 2012 | 2222 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
World AIDS Day is held Dec. 1 each year, a tradition since 1988, as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV.

Support is shown through global events that fundraise, spread awareness and commemorate those who have died from the virus.

The fight hits close to home, as statistics indicate Bolivar County and Sunflower County struggle with a relatively high rate of HIV cases.

According to 2011 data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, there were 126 reported cases of individuals living with HIV in Bolivar County and 225 cases in Sunflower County.

The MSDH said a big reason for the high rates is people of all ages not getting the testing they need.

"One of our primary goals is to prevent the spread of AIDS and to do this we need to get more people tested," said Dr. Nicholas Mosca, director of the MSDH Office of HIV/STD Prevention.

"Our data shows that two in five people in Mississippi learn about their AIDS status one year into infection — that's unacceptable," he added.

More than 9,500 Mississippians are living with HIV and 73 percent of those cases are African-Americans — nearly 7,000 cases.

While the virus is a threat to all ages, half of the statewide cases are among 25-44 years old.

So one major solution to the problem — get tested, as it's the only way to be certain of HIV status.

"We need to increase testing across the state," added Mosca. "This will probably lead to an increase of numbers at first, but ultimately, identifying HIV positive people will decrease the spread of infection. The key is identifying it early."

Testing is free and confidential at any county health department in Mississippi — every day of the year.

The Bolivar County Health Department in Cleveland can arrange and assist with testing needs. Call 662-843-2706 for more local information.

An estimated 34 million people around the world are HIV positive.

More than 25 million people between 1981-2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive diseases in history.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for the public to learn facts and put knowledge into action.

Understanding how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with it, can help diminish the pandemic.

"We lose about 250 people per year in Mississippi to AIDS," said Mosca. "World AIDS Day is about remembrance and hope.

"It's also an opportunity to spread the word about getting tested and some of the new tests coming out, such as home testing."

To learn more, visit www.aids.gov.

A MSDH AIDS hotline is also available for questions, information and assistance at 1-800-826-2961.