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World AIDS Day Walk set in Rehoboth Dec. 1

November 29, 2017

Friday, Dec. 1, marks the 29th World AIDS Day, providing an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, and raise awareness of the continuing epidemic around the globe. This year's theme is Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships. Several events are scheduled statewide in observance of World AIDS Day.

CAMP Rehoboth will hold a Candlelight Walk at 6:15 p.m., Dec. 1, starting at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand in downtown Rehoboth. The Service of Remembrance begins at 7 p.m. at All Saints' Church, 18 Olive Ave. with reading of the names of those lost to AIDS followed by a community supper. Free HIV testing will be provided from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center. Contact Salvatore Seeley, 302-227-5620, salvatoreseeley@aol.com for more information.

Approximately 3,500 Delawareans are living with HIV/AIDS. The CDC estimates that another 350 to 400 Delawareans are HIV-positive but are not aware. These individuals pose a great risk of transmitting HIV since they may not take precautions before engaging in high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex or needle sharing. This may also hold true for those who are aware of their infection, but are not receiving medical care. The Division of Public Health encourages Delawareans to learn the facts about HIV, talk about the disease and take action.

"Together we have the power to curb and eventually stop new HIV infections," said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. "It starts with getting tested to know your HIV status, and eliminating behavior that places you, and others, at risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV. If you are positive for HIV, we urge you to seek treatment and remain in care."

Sadly, stigma, discrimination, and misinformation surrounding HIV remain significant barriers to testing, treatment and prevention. HIV is not spread by hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing utensils, or closed-mouth (social) kissing with someone who is HIV positive. You cannot get HIV from consuming food handled by an HIV-infected person. HIV is not spread by mosquitoes, ticks or other insects.

Today's HIV medications allow people to live longer, healthier lives. For those living with HIV, antiretroviral medications taken as prescribed will suppress HIV to undetectable levels in blood. At this level, HIV-infected individuals may not transmit the disease to others. In Delaware, 81 percent of those in care are virally suppressed. Still, it remains important to use protective methods such as condoms to prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases.

"It is critical that all sexually active Delawareans know their HIV status and that those who are infected are treated to viral suppression," said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. "If you do not know your status, get tested. The number of Delawareans dying from HIV have dropped significantly over the past 10 years, and significant advances in medical treatment have helped those infected lead normal lives. Lack of medical insurance is not a barrier to HIV treatment in our state."

With HIV testing as a foundation, HIV-negative persons can link to prevention services to prevent HIV acquisition and transmission. One of the options now available is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is available for those who are HIV negative, but unable to stop certain types of high-risk behavior. The PrEP pill, taken daily can prevent HIV infection. For a list of physicians prescribing PrEP, go to delawarehiv.org/delaware-prep.

There are several sites in the state that offer free rapid HIV testing. For a list, go to gettested.cdc.gov.

For more information, call the Delaware Division of Public Health at 302-744-1050.