LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK)- On Sunday, millions of people across the U.S. commemorated World AIDS Day, honoring those who have died and supporting those living with HIV and AIDS.
Inside the Longview Public Library, this year’s theme was “Communities Make the Difference.”
“There’s such a stigma surrounding people living with HIV. The stigma is that only a certain group of people get it, and once you get it, you’re going to die. That’s not the case,” said Joshua Martinez, who helped organize the World AIDS Day event in Longview.
According to HIV.gov, today, an estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States. However, with modern treatment, people with HIV are not living longer, and with a better quality of life than ever before.
Martinez’s life changed 10 years ago, and since then he has been sharing his story with others.
“On June 19, 2009, at 7:30 in the morning, I lost my partner and I did not know he was HIV positive. It’s something that had impacted my life directly,” said Martinez.
It wasn’t until years later he would find out he was positive too.
“In 2015, I found out, even with regular testing, that I had acquired the HIV virus, and I’ve been fortunate and very blessed to have the community I’ve been surrounded with,” explained Martinez.
Currently, over one million people are HIV positive, but research shows one out of seven people don’t know it.
“In a small place like Longview, you still have it in the community. Doctors don’t do routine testing,” said Janet Splawn, with Wellness Point in Longview.
Splawn has been administrating HIV tests for the past 17 years and although she sees an increase in people getting tested, she still worries the stigma surrounding the virus keeps people away.
She points out that education at a young age is vital to fighting the virus.
“If your not educating your kids when they’re 12, 13, 14, about sex and how to have safe sex, then you may be too late,” said Splawn.
HIV VERSUS AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body infection, making a person vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
If left untreated, HIV-positive people can be susceptible to diseases and infections that a person with a functioning immune system would be able to fight off.
Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the late stage of an HIV infection. This can develop any time between 2 and 15 years after infection if the person is not taking proper medication.
One important difference between HIV and AIDS is HIV can be passed from one person to another, while AIDS cannot.
IS THERE A CURE?
No – The human body can’t get rid of HIV and no effective HIV cure exists.
Many believe once tested positive, the virus is a death sentence. However, by taking HIV medicine (antiretroviral therapy or ART), people with HIV can live a long healthy life.
AIDS BATTLE IN WASHINGTON
Back in his State of the Union address, President Trump took a strong stand on ending new HIV infections in the US.
President stating he plans on cutting the HIV infections by 90 percent by 2020.