Governor Roy Cooper designated Saturday, Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day in North Carolina in recognition of the importance of HIV testing, awareness and treatment. This year marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day and renews opportunities for health service agencies to work with partners to raise awareness about HIV, with the goal of ending the epidemic through education, prevention, technology and viral suppression treatment.
“It is important to know your status and your partner’s status, and I encourage everyone to get tested and learn more about HIV,” Governor Cooper said. “We are grateful for the physicians, nurses, case managers, outreach workers, researchers and other health care professionals who help people living with HIV receive high quality and responsive care and treatment. We can help people living with HIV get the treatment they need by working to close the coverage gap and expand access to affordable health insurance.”
Saturday morning, Governor Cooper’s Office of Public Engagement convened 50 health advocates and leaders for NC Beyond HIV, a summit to discuss challenges and opportunities in addressing North Carolina’s HIV epidemic.
As of December 2017, there were an estimated 40,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in North Carolina, with 1 in every 8 unaware of their infection. It is crucial that health care providers carefully evaluate their patients’ risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and discuss risk reduction strategies with them. One example, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), is a pill a HIV-negative person can take daily to help prevent HIV infection.
Medicaid is the top source of coverage for people living with HIV. Governor Cooper is leading the charge to close the health care coverage gap by expanding access to Medicaid to cover over 500,000 North Carolinians, bring more than $4 billion into our economy, create thousands of jobs, help control private insurance premiums, and help combat the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities.
“We want all North Carolinians to have the opportunity to live healthy and fulfilling lives,” said DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D. “People with HIV can achieve that, but we need to improve awareness and testing to ensure that everyone living with HIV is getting the care and medication they need.”
In 2017, there were 1,310 adults and adolescents newly diagnosed with HIV in North Carolina, according to the NC HIV/STD Surveillance Report. 86 percent of all clients enrolled in North Carolina’s HIV Medication Assistance Program are virally suppressed. Viral suppression can preserve the health of people living with HIV and prevent transmission of the virus to others.
For more information on HIV and AIDS prevention, testing and treatment visit epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/hiv/individuals or your local health department.
For more information on World AIDS Day visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/hiv/library/awareness/wad.