NASHVILLE – As the world recognizes December 1, 2014 as World AIDS Day, Tennesseans are encouraged to get the facts and get tested.
More than 16,000 people in Tennessee are living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, and that number is growing. In the five years between 2009 and 2013, an average of 871 additional Tennesseans each year became infected.
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, causing a life-threatening illness known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. When a person has AIDS, his or her body’s natural defense system loses its ability to fight infections. That person is then at increased risk of suffering or dying from many other diseases and illnesses. The average annual AIDS death toll in Tennessee for the 2009-2013 period was 294.
“The vast majority of deaths we see every year from AIDS could have been prevented,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “HIV is spread primarily through unprotected sex with an infected person and sharing needles for injection drug use with an infected person. While there have been advances in AIDS treatment, there still is not a cure for it. Consequently, it’s a tragic reality that too many of those who become infected will endure suffering and a premature death that could have been prevented.”
There are numerous locations across the state offering free or low-cost HIV testing, including Tennessee’s county health department clinics. To find a testing location anywhere in the U.S., go to www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/hiv-testing/hiv-test-locations/.
“Learn the truth about HIV and avoid behaviors that put you and others at great risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV. Taking an HIV test is the only sure way to know your status. If you are pregnant and HIV-positive, protect your unborn child by receiving medical care to help prevent passing the virus to your baby,” said TDH HIV/STD Section Director Shanell L. McGoy, PhD, MPH. “Together we can focus our efforts, partner with people throughout the state and ultimately achieve an AIDS-Free Generation in Tennessee.”