HOUSTON – KPRC 2 joins the world on Dec. 1 in remembrance of the millions of lives lost to AIDS and people who are still living with AIDS or HIV.
In honor of those lives lost, health officials encourage awareness, education, and testing to help prevent the spread of HIV in communities across the globe.
According to the Houston Health Department, people can find a health center nearest to them or other free and accessible testing locations by calling (832) 393-5010 or visiting HoustonHealth.org for more information.
For the past 34 years, people have gathered in solidarity to commemorate this day, HHD says.
Since the start of the epidemic several years ago, over 36 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses and close to 37 million people were living with HIV worldwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although there have been many breakthroughs, researchers continue to look for a cure.
“World AIDS day helps us remember why prevention through testing is important in the fight against the disease,” said Marlene McNeese, deputy assistant director of the department’s Bureau of HIV/STD & Viral Hepatitis Prevention. “It’s up to all of us to create awareness of free testing available to the public and how pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can help slow the spread.”
According to the CDC, HIV testing has sharply decreased in health care and non-health care settings from 2019 to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, prompting an urgent need to increase testing.
The decline in testing includes 49% of gay and bisexual men, 47% transgender people, 46% Hispanic and Latino people, and 44% among Black people, a news release from HHD said.
Additionally, HHD said more than 1,169 new HIV diagnoses and 117 HIV-related deaths in Houston and Harris County were reported to the department in 2021. As of 2020, over 28,200 people were living with HIV in Houston and Harris County and nearly 1.5 million new cases were reported worldwide, the health department reported.
The CDC says they aim to reduce the number of new diagnoses through the End the HIV Epidemic in the United States by 2030 initiative. The strategy includes diagnoses, treatment, and prevention in Harris County based on the number of new diagnoses.
HHD offers PrEP, non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP), and free and confidential HIV and STI testing at all four of its health centers to help prevent and detect new diagnoses.