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Avoiding infection focus of AIDS Awareness Month

The month of December is World AIDS Awareness Month, most commonly recognized for World AIDS Day, celebrated Dec. 1. Each year, since 1988, World AIDS Day has served as an important reminder the fight against HIV is far from over. This year's theme was "Universal Access and Human Rights" because most people in poor countries cannot get the care and services they need to treat HIV and AIDS. Universal access to prevention and care is seen as a basic human right and is also a key factor in fighting the global HIV and AIDS epidemic.

In the U.S. someone is affected with HIV about every 9 1/2 minutes. That's 56,300 new infections each year. More than 14,000 Americans still die from HIV disease each year and one in five people with HIV don't know they have the infection. Many may be spreading HIV to others without knowing it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, "HIV testing is entering a new era in this country as lawmakers, health care and insurance executives, and public health officials are making changes in their respective fields to ensure that more people will know their HIV status - an important consideration for maintaining health and reducing the spread of the virus."

All doctors, nurse practitioners and physician's assistants in New York State must offer HIV testing to patients at the doctor's office or in hospitals, including Emergency Departments.

World AIDS Day is a time for all to ask others to talk openly and honestly about the behaviors that spread HIV and about how to stay healthy. The following list reminds all to be responsible for their own health and protect others.

• Find out if you have HIV. If you have ever had sex or injected drugs (even once) you are at risk - get tested for HIV.

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