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GETTING TO ZERO

- Health Unit Marks World AIDS Day on December 1 with Call for People to Learn the Facts and Get Tested -

At a time when one person in Canada is infected with HIV every three hours, the local Health Unit is joining with other health experts to try to set the clock back to zero.

‘Getting to Zero’ is the theme of World AIDS Day 2015, which is being marked globally on Tuesday (December 1). For local residents, World AIDS Day is an important moment to reflect on what has been achieved in the response to HIV/AIDS more than three decades after its onset, says Joanne Paynter, a Sexual Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit.

“Getting to zero is really what World AIDS Day represents… zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination towards people who may have the disease, and zero AIDs-related deaths,” Paynter says

The Public Health Agency of Canada describes HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) as a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness that leaves people vulnerable to infections and cancers. When the body can no longer fight infection, the disease progresses to what is known as AIDS (or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). While treatment has made it possible for people to live longer with HIV, the fact remains there is still no cure and many Canadians with HIV/AIDS have and continue to die from the disease, Paynter notes. On average, it takes more than 10 years to progress from initial HIV infection to AIDS.

“We have made a lot of progress when it comes to public understanding, testing and treatment of HIV and AIDS, but obviously there is still much more to done,” she adds.

The Health Unit encourages local residents to be aware of the risks of HIV/AIDS by taking appropriate precautions and getting tested if they believe they may have become infected or put at risk. Some of the ways that HIV can be transmitted is through: unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive (vaginal, anal or oral), sharing needles or equipment for injecting drugs, or using unsterilized needles for tattooing, skin piercing or acupuncture.

Local residents who want to be tested or find out more information about HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections can call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1205. All services are free and confidential.

Locally, the Health Unit reports one or two new HIV/AIDS cases each year in its area. According to CATIE, a Canadian organization that provides HIV and Hepatitis C information, there were an estimated 30,000 people living with HIV in Ontario in 2011. Approximately 1,400 new HIV infections were reported that same year.

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For media inquiries, contact:

Joanne Paynter, Sexual Health Nurse, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100 or 1-866-888-4577.

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