Bladen County Health Department, the Bladen County AIDS Task Force, and area churches will be sponsoring a candlelight prayer vigil here in observance of the World AIDS Day 2004. The event will be held Wednesday, December 1, at 5:30 p.m. on the Bladen County Courthouse lawn. Everyone is welcome to attend.
World AIDS Day is commemorated around the globe on December 1st each year. World AIDS Day celebrates the progress made in the battle against the AIDS epidemic and brings into focus the remaining challenges.
World AIDS Day 2004 focuses on women, girls, and HIV/AIDS. This theme for the World AIDS Day campaign 2004 is "Have You Heard Me Today." Women make up about half the people living with HIV. Globally women and girls are becoming infected with HIV at a faster rate then men and boys.
This year's campaign focuses on preventing new infections, promoting equal access to treatment, and mitigating the impact of AIDS. According to the United Nations on AIDS (UNAIDS) reports, "HIV and AIDS is no longer striking primarily men. Today, more that 20 years into the epidemic, women account for nearly half to the 40 million people living with HIV worldwide." In sub-Saharan Africa, 57 percent of adults with HIV are women, and young women aged 15 to 24 are more than three times as likely to be infected as young men.
"It is evident that women know less than men about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how to prevent infection." In Zimbabwe alone nearly 800,000 children are orphans as a result of one or both parent's death from AIDS. There are as many as 2,500 HIV/AIDS related burials in Zimbabwe each week. This leaves in most cases the girls leaving school to care for their siblings or sick relatives."
UNAIDS estimates for 2004, there were 35.7 million adults and 2.1 million children living with HIV at the end of 2003, and during the year 4.8 million new people became infected with the virus. Most contact the virus before the age of 25 and die from the AIDS virus before they are 35. Ninety-five percent of the people with HIV/AIDS live in the developing world, but HIV/AIDS remains a threat to people of all ages and nationalities.
In the United States treatment is more accessible than in Africa, but early detection is necessary to combat the HIV virus. The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) states, "Millions of Americans are infected with HIV but are not aware of it, and are uneducated on the simple testing that is necessary to detect the virus. By the time they are diagnosed with HIV it is too late in their infection for early care and treatment. It has been nearly 20 years into the epidemic and there are still millions that have not been tested."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 180,000 to 280,000 Americans do not know that they are infected with HIV. Americans who do not know they are infected continue to engage in behavior that could jeopardize their health.
HIV and AIDS do not discriminate from race, gender, or age. National Association of People with AIDS, (NAPWA) reports, "People under the age of 25 make up at least half of all HIV infections; this includes whites, African-Americans, Latinos, males and females. HIV has been the leading cause of death among young people since 1991. Yet, large numbers of infected young people have never been tested and are unaware of their status."
If you are at risk take the test. If you are not at risk, it is critical to be informed with information and programs that help maintain healthy behaviors and avoid infection.
What do you do to get tested? The Bladen County Health Department offers free confidential testing during regular hours. Visit the Department during its scheduled hours. Some blood will be drawn and sent to a lab for testing. Test results will return in less than ten days. The health department offers pre-test and post-test counseling on the test, what the test means, and how to lower your risk for infection.
Testing can also be provided by local healthcare providers and local physicians.
The test is simple, and one that may save your life or your partner's life.
For more information for groups or organizations concerning HIV and AIDS awareness, contact the Bladen County Health Department or the Bladen County HIV/STD/AIDS Task Force at 910-862-6900. The members of the Task Force are willing to come out and present material or make material available on HIV and AIDS.
Many Americans this year will be affected by HIV/AIDS virus. Through education and vigilance of the community, this deadly epidemic can be brought to an end. Show your support for ending this epidemic by attending the World AIDS Day prayer vigil on Wednesday.