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World AIDS Day: 800 New MI Cases a Year

HIV testing is a simple procedure and results are available in about 20 minutes. Credit: Wheeler Cowperthwalte/Flickr
HIV testing is a simple procedure and results are available in about 20 minutes. Credit: Wheeler Cowperthwalte/Flickr
December 1, 2015

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 Michiganders.

According to state data, the rate of new HIV diagnoses was stable from 2009 to 2013, with about 800 new cases reported each year, and the highest rates of new infection were among 20- to 29-year-olds.

What's perplexing, said Leon Golson, director of prevention programs for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Southeast Michigan, is that most people understand how the infection is spread and how to prevent it.

"So it begs the question: Why? Last, month we had to give a 24-year-old his positive test results," Golson said. "Where's the disconnect? Why are we still seeing these new HIV infections?"

He said HIV typically is spread through unprotected sex or the sharing of contaminated needles. On World AIDS Day, free HIV testing is being offered at some public health clinics.

With an estimated one in five people with HIV unaware he or she has the infection, Golson encouraged people to find out. He said it's a simple blood test and results are available in about 20 minutes.

"It's relatively easy to do," he said. "At the same time, we're aware that it comes with some fear and stigma attached to getting an HIV test and we do all we can to make sure that individuals are comfortable here and they aren't going to be judged."

Many health agencies or clinics have trained staff available to assist people who test positive. Golson said it's important to know that times have changed since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, and a lot can be done.

"There's a lot of supportive services that are out there, and people are living longer," he said. "It's been 30 years for me living with HIV now, so there is life after a HIV-positive test result."

State data is online at michigan.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI