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Message from the State Health Officer

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World AIDS Day Emphasizes Need for Awareness and Educational Efforts

World AIDS Day is held on December 1 each year. This observance is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988. This annual observance is important because it reminds the public that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise awareness and improve education.

More than 1.2 million people in the United States and 13,000 people in Alabama are living with the HIV infection. Nationally, almost 1 in 8 HIV-positive persons are unaware of their infection.  In Alabama, this figure is much higher as 1 in 6 people living with HIV are unaware of their infection and 1 in 5 HIV-positive gay and bisexual men who have sex with men are unaware of their status.  Each year, between 600 and 700 people are newly diagnosed with HIV in Alabama.

The estimated number of recent HIV infections is highest among individuals aged 13-24 years, followed by individuals aged 25-34 years. This downward shift in the age distribution of Alabama’s recently infected HIV population indicates a need for increased prevention efforts targeting adolescents and young adults. The theme for 2016 is “Leadership. Commitment. Impact.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health just launched a comprehensive statewide social media campaign to bring awareness to this issue. This campaign, Start Talking Alabama, was created by the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care Division to reach young gay men of color in Alabama.  The goal of the campaign is to increase HIV awareness and decrease stigma by sharing prevention, testing, and treatment information and support.  The educational videos and webcast programs provide information and resources to reach adolescents and young adults between 15-29 years of age who are twice as likely to be infected with HIV as the average Alabama resident.  Trends over the past decade show an alarming increase in the number of HIV infections among African American males in this age range reporting sex with another male.

KML AL is an app that the department has recently released that seeks to encourage individuals to “Know Your Status, Manage Your Health, and Live Your Best Life.”  It is an information source to help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and to help those with HIV/AIDS in managing their disease.  The app provides information on how HIV is transmitted, how to prevent HIV, how to get tested, and how to manage the disease. 

The mission of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care, in collaboration with community partners, is to reduce the incidence of HIV infections, to increase life expectancy for those infected, and to improve the quality of life for persons living with or affected by HIV.  Alabama also has 16 partner organizations and clinics that are dedicated to providing treatment and support services for people living with HIV. Visit adph.org/aids for more information.

Thomas M. Miller, M.D.
State Health Officer

(December 2016)

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