On this World AIDS Day, Minnesota is reminded the disease still presents many challenges here at home.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, there were 307 new HIV cases diagnosed last year, marking a 2 percent increase over the diagnoses the year before. In all, 7,988 people live with HIV/AIDS in the state, 2014 numbers show.
"Despite the tremendous progress made in responding to the epidemic over the past three decades, the annual number of new HIV cases has not declined and remains unacceptably high," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said, according to the Pioneer Press.
The agency says there are "great disparities" in diagnosis rates between whites and American Indians (and other "populations of color"), with Minnesota's minority communities having a disproportionately higher number of diagnoses.
Furthermore, "male-to-male sex" is still the leading mode of HIV transmission in the state.
Over 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with an HIV infection, according to AIDS.gov, which also says more than 12 percent of those people are unaware that they are infected.
Worldwide, the website says, 36.9 million people are living with HIV/AIDS – and 2.6 million of those are children (younger than 15).
World AIDS Day event
To raise awareness of these issues, the Positive Care Center at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in Minneapolis is hosting a World AIDS Day event in the hospital's Red Skyway (which spans Seventh Avenue) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It's a combined effort of the Positive Care Center, the Minnesota Health Department, the Minnesota AIDS Project and other groups. They'll be providing "education and resources" to the community as well as red ribbons that "show support for those living with HIV/AIDS."
The event even comes with its own hashtag, #HCMCWAD15, which organizers encourage attendees to use on social media.
The Positive Care Center is focused on "providing quality, comprehensive health and psychosocial services to those living with HIV," according to its website.
You can learn more about their event by clicking here.
Meanwhile, Duluth medical student Julia Mandsager Komatsu wrote an opinion piece published by the Duluth News Tribune Tuesday morning, urging Minnesotans to contact their congressional representatives, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, to vote for increases in AIDS relief funding.
As Komatsu writes, the "U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was cut by more than $300 million between 2010 and 2013," and while the program has since seen "modest increases" in funding, it's still far below what she says is needed.
She's calling on Minnesotans to ask their representatives to "restore funding to the 2010 level."
Raising awareness with a little humor
Condom company Durex has made its own World AIDS Day contribution in the form of a humorous video aimed at kicking off a new movement in how we text each other and talk about safe sex.
The presentation calls on smartphone users (so, basically, all of us) to use the hashtag #CondomEmoji, in hopes the "clever people who make the emojis" for cell phones will create a "condom" symbol we can use in our textual conversations.
That way, the video proposes, safe sex can become a more natural part of our conversations with each other. Have a look: