This Friday is World AIDS Day – a day that local health officials say serves as an important reminder that HIV has not gone away.

Over 15,000 Michiganders are living with HIV – including roughly 110 in Livingston County. Officials say 90% of new cases could be prevented through treatment and diagnosis, and many times people don’t know they’re infected and then spread it to others. The Livingston County Health Department recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once, although those with certain risk factors should get tested annually.

HIV is the virus that when infected leads to AIDS, which is a syndrome. Health Promotion Coordinator Chelsea Moxlow says it’s ideal to catch the diagnosis when someone is still HIV positive and hasn’t gotten to the point of an AIDS diagnosis. Moxlow tells WHMI there have been significant strides in the treatment of HIV, which can keep those infected healthy for many years. In many cases, treatment can make the virus undetectable in a person’s blood and when it cannot be detected, then HIV cannot be spread.

Moxlow says there is still a need to increase awareness, raise funds, fight prejudice and improve education. The themes of this year’s World AIDS Day is “increasing impact through transparency, accountability and partnerships”.

Free, anonymous, confidential testing is offered by appointment through the Livingston County Health Department and officials cannot stress enough the importance of getting tested. As part of awareness efforts for World AIDS Day this Friday, the local health department will have red ribbons for clients to take home.

Those wanting to schedule an appointment can call the Communicable Disease Nurse at 517-552-6882. More information is available in the attached press release and link provided. (JM)