In observance of World AIDS Day on December 1, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) and Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health urges those at risk for HIV/AIDS to contact their local public health unit to get free testing for the HIV virus, which causes AIDS.
“World AIDS day raises awareness about the impact HIV/AIDS has on people, families and communities,” according to Gino Jose, HIV Prevention Coordinator for the Department of Health. “HIV can be prevented by avoiding or not engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, needle-sharing for drug use, or unsanitary tattooing and body piercing. If you do not know if you are infected with HIV, you could be spreading it to others. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.”
HIV testing is available throughout the state, and results are usually available in 20 minutes. The test sites are staffed by trained personnel who offer free and confidential HIV testing, counseling and referrals to those at risk. Testing is available at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, call 355-1540 to schedule an appointment.
Over one million people in the United States are HIV positive, and approximately 50,000 new infections occur every year. Over 600 cases of HIV have been reported to NDDoH since surveillance began in 1984. Today, approximately 373 people are living with HIV/AIDS in North Dakota.
In 2013, 23 North Dakota residents were reported to the NDDoH as being diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS, representing a 69 percent increase from the 16 HIV/AIDS cases reported in 2012. Eight of the newly diagnosed HIV cases were advanced enough to meet the case definition for AIDS at the time of diagnosis. “Early diagnosis is important to make certain folks are receiving appropriate treatment. With early intervention, many people live longer, healthier lives with HIV than ever before,” according to Deb Hoffman, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.
Established by the World Health Organization in 1988, World AIDS Day focuses global awareness on prevention efforts and the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Observation of this day provides an opportunity for governments, national AIDS programs, churches, community organizations and individuals to come together to demonstrate commitment and action in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
For information about HIV testing and other HIV/AIDS services, call Bismarck Burleigh Public Health at 701-355-1540. You can also call the North Dakota Department of Health HIV/AIDS Program hotline at 800.70.NDHIV or visit the program’s website at www.ndhealth.gov/hiv. You can identify your risk factors through an anonymous survey at http://www.ndhealth.gov/knowyourrisk.