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Health Department Raises Awareness During World AIDS Day

December 1st marks World AIDS Day, a day to increase awareness of the disease across the globe. The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is joining in the effort to fight the virus, and spoke with KSMU’s Samuel Crowe.

2011 marks the 30th anniversary since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first published a scientific account of the HIV virus. Kendra Williams of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department says that while there’s medication to treat the disease, numbers indicate it’s still a large problem.

“Currently there are 1.2 million people in the United States that are living with HIV, and there are 50,000 new cases every year diagnosed,” Williams said.

Williams says it’s adults in their twenties who are most likely to contract the virus, though prevention efforts need to begin when young people are in their teens. Discussing abstinence, methods that reduce the chances of disease transmission during sex and single partner relationships with high schoolers is crucial, she says, to preventing the spread of STD’s.

But for individuals who do find themselves engaging in risky sexual behavior, Williams encourages these people to know their status – get tested and have their partner tested. The Health Department estimates that 50 percent of those who are newly infected are not aware of their status.

“We have a clinic, a STD clinic that operates pretty much during the week. We have nurses on staff who will see patients Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then we have an express testing option for those who are not symptomatic that you can go through any day of the week, Monday through Friday, and get tested, and it’s free testing,” Williams said.

Williams acknowledges that home testing kits are available for those who want to remain anonymous, but advises against them because of a high risk of inaccurate test results. She says testing through the Health Department and physicians’ offices is much more reliable.

“If I were making the choice for myself or my child, I would not recommend a kit that you’ve ordered online. Both our program and Aids Project of the Ozarks, APO, we both have anonymous testing that you can come in, get tested and still get your test results but remain anonymous,” Williams said.

Williams says those with the HIV virus are at an increased risk of attaining other immunodeficiency diseases like seasonal flu and tuberculosis. She says good nutrition, regular exercise, and good personal hygiene are ways to stay healthy while living with HIV. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.