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Minnesota marks World AIDS Day with programs, free testing

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Monday is World AIDS Day, and several Minnesota organizations throughout the state are offering free HIV testing in connection with the annual event. The effort stresses the importance of early testing, especially among people at high-risk for the disease.

Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Roy Nelson told MPR News that one out of three people in the state diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the past year got tested very late in their illness.

"What that actually means is that they've been infected five to 10 years prior to them coming in and being tested, missing years of beneficial treatments, as well as unknowingly infecting others," he said.

The number of new HIV/AIDS cases in Minneosta has not declined over the past decade. Statistics compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health in its summary report on AIDS/HIV surveillance in Minnesota in 2013 finds that there were 301 new HIV diagnoses reported in Minnesota in 2013, a decrease of 4 percent from 2012. New HIV diagnoses remain concentrated in the seven-county metro area, which contributed 82 percent of new diagnoses in 2013.

Health Department numbers also show there were 7,723 Minnesotans living with HIV or AIDS as of December 31, 2013.

The Minnesota Health Department's website has a list of events in the community to mark the day, such as an open house at The Aliveness Project in South Minneapolis. The nonprofit, which provides food and services to those living with HIV/AIDS, will be open on Monday afternoon from 2:30 to 5:00. The short program begins at 3:00.

The Northland's News Center reports a number of groups will gather for a vigil in downtown Duluth in honor of the day. The event, sponsored by the Duluth Superior HIV Support Group, Rural, AIDS Action Network Syringe Exchange, and POZ Youth, will stage an event to raise public awareness, gathering at 4:30 p.m. Monday at the intersection of Lake Avenue and Superior Street.

The federal government's new initiative in prevention is Getting to Zero, an effort to achieve an AIDS-free generation by 2025.

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