This year marks the 30th annual World AIDS Day, an international day dedicated to remembering those who have died from the disease and to raising awareness and support for those suffering from HIV and AIDS.
According to HIV.gov, more than one million people in the United States are HIV-positive and one in seven of them are not even aware. There are roughly 50,000 new cases of HIV each year in the U.S.
According the Center for Disease Control, many high-risk people are not getting tested for HIV. Billy Kirkpatrick, the executive director of West Alabama AIDS Outreach, says that while we’ve come along way in the fight against AIDS and HIV, stigma surrounding the disease still keeps high-risk individuals from getting tested.
“We still have a lot of stigma,” Kirkpatrick said. “Eighty percent of our clients are African American, but you don’t hear much in that community about this disease, and one way we could progress is to have a more mainstream conversation among that demographic.”
Kirkpatrick says this disease is not a death sentence, and he encourages anyone and everyone to get tested for HIV. “I can tell you for our agency, we do this everyday,” said Kirkpatrick. “There’s nothing anyone should be embarrassed about. We just want them to get tested and if they’re positive, get them care, and if they’re not positive, a chance to talk about really being safe in their behavior so they don’t become positive.”
The West Alabama AIDS Outreach offers free HIV testing Monday through Thursday all day, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon. For more information, you can visit their website.
By WVUA 23 Student Reporter Megan Hallson