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World AIDS Day: Progress in NC Fight Against HIV/AIDS

PHOTO: Alicia Diggs from Greensboror volunteering at a health fair. Saturday is World AIDS Day, and Diggs credits medications for keeping her disease in check.. Courtesy Alicia Diggs
PHOTO: Alicia Diggs from Greensboror volunteering at a health fair. Saturday is World AIDS Day, and Diggs credits medications for keeping her disease in check.. Courtesy Alicia Diggs
November 30, 2012

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Tomorrow (Saturday) is World AIDS Day, and events are planned around the state and country.

Mother and grandmother Alicia Diggs will be one of those participating in Greensboro. She has been living with HIV for 11 years. Thanks to recent developments in drug therapies, Diggs is able to work full-time and attend graduate school. She is one of more than 26,000 people in North Carolina living with the disease, and is grateful for the way her body is responding to drug therapy.

"I am healthy. I don't think about HIV unless it comes up as a subject on someone else. That's how well I control being a person that has to live with HIV."

About one out of every 260 North Carolinians is living with HIV, and while medications have made the condition a manageable illness that doesn't progress to AIDS, recent cuts to the state budget have reduced the number of medications covered under the state's AIDS Drug Assistance program.

The North Carolina AIDS Action Network estimates there are as many as 7,000 undiagnosed people living with HIV. And Claire Hermann, the group’s communications program director, says advances in medicine may make it possible to beat the virus once and for all, with the right approach.

"An AIDS-free generation is an attainable goal. We have the medicines and public health tools that we need to halt this epidemic. All we need is the political will and community action to make it happen."

Hermann says if state lawmakers chose to expand the state's Medicaid program, half a million North Carolinians would have access to health insurance who currently do not, a benefit that would offer further assistance to people living with HIV.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC