LANSING, Mich. – It’s World AIDS Day, and health organizations are working to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and its impact on the lives of Ohioans.
According to state data, the rate of new HIV diagnoses remained stable from 2009 to 2012, but rose in 2013. Trends suggest increases in new infections among people from ages 20 to 29.
Bill Hardy, president and chief executive of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, said the silver lining is that HIV is more treatable than ever.
“There are more Ohioans and more Americans than ever living with HIV,” he said. “Ignorance is not bliss. If individuals have engaged in any risky behavior, they should be tested – and it’s no longer a death sentence.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the life expectancy for someone with HIV increased by 40 percent from 1987 to 2013, and is now about 50 years of age. In Ohio, there were 950 new HIV cases reported in 2014.
HIV typically is spread through unprotected sex or sharing contaminated needles. With an estimated one in five people with HIV unaware that he or she has the infection, Hardy encouraged them to find out. He said it’s a simple blood test.
“Twenty years ago, testing required a blood draw, then you waited for seven to 10 agonizing days,” he said. “Today, thanks to medical advances, we do rapid testing. In 20 minutes, we have a preliminary result.”
Many health agencies have trained staff available to assist people who test positive. On World AIDS Day, free HIV testing is being offered at some public health clinics.
State data is online at odh.ohio.gov.