Health and Family Services Cabinet
Public Health Marks World AIDS Day
Observance Highlights Access to Services, Prevention
The Kentucky Department for Public Health is recognizing Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day, an observance set aside on the same day each year to raise HIV and AIDS awareness, increase HIV education and fight HIV stigma and discrimination.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme is Universal Access and Human Rights. The theme’s focus is ensuring access to HIV prevention services, medication and timely, effective HIV treatment and care services to infected people.
More than 1 million people are living with HIV in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates someone in the U.S. gets infected with HIV every 9.5 minutes, amounting to 56,300 new infections annually. While great strides have been made in providing access to HIV/AIDS services, a significant number of infected people who are in need of antiretroviral therapy and other treatment do not have access to it.
In 2007, up to 30 percent of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Kentucky were aware of their status but not receiving regular primary health care. Additionally, CDC estimates that 21 percent of those living with HIV disease are unaware they are infected, and hence do not receive care. African-Americans account for 48.6 percent and Hispanics 18 percent of HIV-positive people who are unaware of their status and respectively have nine times and three times the rate of undiagnosed HIV infections than Caucasians.
“The Kentucky Department for Public Health HIV/AIDS Branch continues to work diligently to reduce the number of new HIV infections, increase the proportion of HIV-infected people in Kentucky who are aware of their status, and ensure that people living with HIV and AIDS have access to prevention, care and support services,” said Sigga Jagne, manager of the DPH HIV/AIDS Branch. “Awareness and public education are very important pieces of what we do.”
The HIV/AIDS Branch is particularly focused on education and outreach among racial/ethnic minorities and men who have sex with men (MSM) due to the disproportionate impact on these communities.
As of Dec. 31, 2008, 5,015 AIDS cases have been reported in Kentucky since Public Health began tracking cases. According to DPH, 46 percent of cases were MSM, 37 percent were African-American, and 7 percent were Hispanic. Additionally, 46 percent were residing in the KIPDA area development district (which includes Jefferson County).
The HIV/AIDS Branch, in collaboration with local health departments and many community-based organizations, provides free or low-cost HIV testing. To mark World AIDS Day, many of these agencies will offer free “rapid tests” at events and hold candlelight vigils to raise awareness of HIV issues and remember those who have died from AIDS.
To find out about events and activities going on in your community throughout December, please contact the HIV/AIDS Branch’s prevention program at (502) 564-6539 or 1-800-420-7431.
For more information about HIV/AIDS and World AIDS Day, please visit http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/epi/hivaids.htm or http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/.