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Logo courtesy of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

RALEIGH — In North Carolina, one in 268 people is infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) disease, and most of the new cases are among teens and young adults. This number includes those who may not be aware that they are infected. North Carolina health leaders say the outlook for people who are HIV positive is dramatically different than it was when the disease was first identified 30 years ago; however, the epidemic is far from over.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most new HIV infections in the U.S. are among people under 30. In North Carolina, nearly one-half of all new sexually transmitted diseases in North Carolina, including HIV, occur in young people between 15 and 24 years old.

“Thirty years ago, HIV was portrayed as a deadly disease that affected only a small population,” State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said. “Today, we see patients of all ages, races and sexual orientation. And while it still can’t be cured, HIV disease today can be effectively treated and people can live long and healthy lives.”

New research indicates that early treatment of heterosexual HIV patients with antiretroviral drugs sharply reduces the chances they will transmit the virus. Results from the study indicate that men and women with HIV reduced risk of transmitting the virus to their heterosexual partners by 96 percent when taking oral antiretroviral therapy (ART).

“The most important step in effective treatment is a diagnosis,” Engel said. “By getting tested for HIV and other STDs, you can get the treatment and advice you need to protect yourself and your partner.”

In recognition of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, health departments and community-based organizations across the state are offering free HIV/STD testing events.

For a list of special events and ongoing testing opportunities, visit http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/hiv/.

The most recent case statistics on syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and AIDS incidence rates in North Carolina are available at the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease branch website at http://www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/hiv/stats.html.

Editor’s note: North Carolina health departments by county are listed on the North Carolina Association of Health Directors’ website.

Another WNC resource is the Western North Carolina AIDS Project which has offices in Asheville, Hendersonville, Shelby and Sylva. Contact numbers gleaned from WNCAP’s website are as follows:

  • Asheville: (828) 252-7489 or toll-free at (800) 346-3731
  • Hendersonville: (828) 696-2267 or toll-free at (866) 696-2267
  • Shelby: (704) 484-5274
  • Sylva: (828) 631-9322 or (828) 230-1249

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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