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Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation

Monday, November 26, 2012 | 06:04am

World Aids Day is December 1, 2012

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health is collaborating with community partners across the state to promote the importance of HIV prevention and treatment through planned activities for World AIDS Day December 1, 2012. This year’s theme is “Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation.”

“World AIDS Day reminds us we are still battling this pandemic, and we now know how important it is for all of us to know our HIV status to prevent transmission and to have the opportunity for early treatment,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. "It's also an opportunity to learn the facts about HIV and put that knowledge into action. When you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented and the reality of living with HIV today, you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than one million people in the United States are living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV. One in five of those living with HIV is unaware of his or her infection. Despite increases in the total number of Americans living with HIV in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Yet these new infections still continue at far too high a level, with an estimated 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.

Tennessee has not escaped the HIV/AIDS pandemic, with cases reported in every county of the state. Figures through the end of 2011 show 24,742 Tennesseans have been diagnosed with HIV. Of this number, 17,269 Tennesseans are currently living with HIV, and to date there have been 7,473 deaths among Tennesseans infected with this virus. As in the rest of the country, African Americans in Tennessee are the most disproportionately affected by HIV, with 61 percent of the 877 new reported HIV cases in Tennessee in 2011 within this population.

“The next step in an AIDS-Free Generation is ensuring that all HIV-infected individuals receive timely linkage to medical care,” Jeanece Seals, HIV/STD section director for TDH said. “The Tennessee Department of Health and many community partners throughout the state are committed to reducing the number of new HIV infections in Tennessee.”

A person may feel perfectly healthy for several years after becoming infected with HIV, and may be at risk for passing the virus on to others. The only way to know for certain if an individual is infected with HIV is to be tested.

The Department of Health offers confidential HIV testing at all county health department clinics, which also provide counseling with a trained health care provider on ways to reduce the risk of HIV infection and help link HIV-infected individuals with medical care. To find your local county health department, visit the TDH website at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.

Other sites that offer HIV tests can be found online at http://hivtest.cdc.gov. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948) and within seconds will receive a text message identifying a testing site near them.

For information about planned World AIDS Day activities across the state, call the HIV/AIDS Hotline toll-free at 1-800-525-2437, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Central time. You can also find information online at www.worldaidsday.org.

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