Community groups around Mississippi are taking time today, World AIDS Day, to highlight the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.
MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, Mississippi is sixth in the nation in the rate of AIDS cases.
The South Mississippi AIDS Task Force will hold events both to remember the losses the disease has caused and to remind the community about how far treatment has come.
Brian Bourn is executive director of the task force.
“While there’s not a cure yet, we are making tremendous progress. The medicines are working very well, and people are able to live full, long lives," he says.
Bourn says World AIDS Day is also a chance to highlight the importance of getting tested and, if positive, seeking treatment. He also hopes this education will help fight the stigma the disease often carries.
“That’s one of the biggest hurdles that our clients at South Mississippi AIDS Task Force - that's one of the biggest hurdles that clients of all organizations that deal with HIV/AIDS face: clients are afraid to utilize the services or afraid to know their status or afraid to get the help that they need because they don’t want anyone to know that they’re positive," he says.
State epidemiologist Dr, Thomas Dobbs says increased testing can also help stem the spread of the disease.
"One of the things that's remarkable about testing, is if people get tested and treated, the treatment makes people almost virtually non-contagious to others. so it's a great way to interrupt transmission, but also too it can turn it into a chronic disease where people can have long healthy lives. So testing is the key."
Free testing is available at all county health departments.