North Dakota observes World AIDS Day
BISMARCK, N.D. – In observance of World AIDS Day on December 1, the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) is urging all North Dakotans to know their HIV status. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested at least once as part of routine health care. Currently, one in seven individuals infected with HIV are unaware of their infection.
“World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness on the impact the disease has on people, families and communities,” said Shari Renton, HIV Surveillance Coordinator for the NDDoH. “When people know how to protect themselves from becoming infected with HIV, it can reduce the spread of the disease in our communities and protect the people we love. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.”
For those who are found to have HIV infection, proper diagnosis and treatment can control the virus and patients can quickly achieve viral suppression. Viral suppression is when laboratory tests are unable to detect the virus in the person’s blood. People who achieve and maintain viral suppression have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting their infection. Currently, 83% of North Dakotans living with HIV are virally suppressed.
Free HIV testing is available at test sites throughout the state; results are available in 15 minutes. Individuals at increased risk, such as those who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and those who have multiple sex partners with limited condom use, should be tested at least annually for HIV. Individuals who have anonymous sex partners should be tested for HIV every three to six months.
Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. Individuals can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), limiting the number of sexual partners, never sharing needles or other injecting supplies, and using condoms the right way, every time. An HIV prevention medicine referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is also available. PrEP is a medication people at very high risk for HIV take daily to lower the chance of getting infected by more than 90%.
For additional information about HIV testing and other HIV/AIDS services, call the NDDoH HIV/AIDS Program at 800-472-2180 or visit the website at www.ndhealth.gov/hiv. Take a free and confidential risk assessment survey at www.ndhealth.gov/hiv/knowyourrisk/.