Fighting Montana's Rise In HIV/AIDS - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Fighting Montana's Rise In HIV/AIDS

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KALISPELL -

This Sunday, December 1, is World AIDS Day, raising awareness for a disease that Flathead health officials say is on the rise statewide.

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), 586 people in Montana have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS as of November 26, 2013. Sexually transmitted disease intervention specialist at the Flathead City-County Health Department, Linda Bodick, says of those, 400 have died over the past two decades.

"HIV is still on the rise," said Bodick, "It affects anyone."

Stigma that still accompanies HIV and AIDS means officials typically will not release statistics for just one county.

"Montana's a small state. Our counties are small and so we're very cautious about releasing numbers for local counties," said Bodick.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that most people spreading the disease do not know they have it. World AIDS Day on December 1 is meant to raise awareness to change this. The health department encourages anyone between 13 and 64 years of age to get tested, especially if you engage in high risk behaviors such as having unprotected sex or using drugs with needle.

"Anybody who is injecting and it's not just the needle, it's all the equipment that they use: it's the spoons, the cottons, the water--any of that could be infected," explained Bodick.

Your local city-county health department offers free or low cost testing that is so simple, ABC FOX MONTANA's Parker Collins got tested on the spot and got his results just twenty minutes later.

"With drug use, and kids having sex younger and younger... everyone thinks they're infallible," said Bodick.

The DPHHS reports that about 56,000 Americans contract HIV each year and more than one million are currently living with HIV or AIDS. While there is no known cure, antiretroviral drugs can hold the disease at bay for years.

On Monday, December 2, five Montanans will be honored by the governor for their work with HIV and AIDS.

The ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Capitol Rotunda.

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