BANGOR – It is something that has impacted the lives of not only Americans but people around the world. AIDS continues to take the lives of people yearly and today people are standing together to raise awareness against the virus.
“It could happen to anyone, I was very naive,” said Kent Wotton, a person living with HIV, “I left Maine and met the first person and it was just one person and that’s all it takes… is that one person.”
During the 1980’s, The United States found itself in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. While it is not talked about as much in 2016, it is still affecting the lives of millions today.
“Annually about 44,000 people in the United States are diagnosed – new diagnoses with HIV, ” said Maggie Campbell, the director of communications and development at Healthy Equity Alliance, “In the state of Maine, there are 1,200 people that we know of living with HIV – but (we) also know that 1 in 8 people living with HIV are not aware of their status.”
“I think it’s very important for people to realize that there are still people dying of AIDS in Maine and all over the United States,” said Wotton.
Those with the disease are typically ostracized and live a lonely life. Especially those who already feel they are living under a marginalized identity
“We know that HIV disproportionately affects people of color and trans-women and for example, gay and bisexual men,” said Campbell, “These are people who are already experiencing societal stigmas and this just a layer on top of that, that could make it more difficult for them.”
According to officials, HIV does not discriminate, it could happen to anyone. People are encouraged to talk openly about it and learn about prevention. Those who experience risk factors should be tested.
“We recommend that everyone is tested at least once in their life and if you experience risk factors, than you should be tested at least once a year,” said Campbell.
With today’s medicine and resources, becoming HIV positive is not the end of someone’s life. Those affected should seek out case management to receive the help that they need.