A time to reflect on HIV and AIDS

Saturday is World AIDS Day. Every Dec. 1 is a day to pay tribute to the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS and commemorate those who have died.

Georgia is marking the day with a proclamation by Gov. Nathan Deal, designating it as World AIDS Day in Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said it will host its first HIV/AIDS Twitter chat Saturday beginning at noon. Topics will include new statistics from the CDC, and what is being done statewide to fight the spread of HIV. There will be information about testing, treatment and prevention. To join the chat, follow #GeorgiaWAD2012.

Georgia has a relatively high rate of HIV infection, especially in metro Atlanta. More than 40,000 people in the state are living with the disease. Georgia ranks in the top 10 states for the rate of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and for the total number of people living with the disease.

The CDC this week reported that people between the ages of 13 and 24 represent more than a quarter of new HIV infections in 2010. Sixty percent of those young people don’t know they are infected.

“It is a sobering reality that so many young people are infected with HIV and even more startling, the number of these young people who aren’t even aware of it,” said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, in a statement. “This tragedy can be prevented by getting people tested and linked to treatment.”

As part of Georgia’s “treatment as prevention” effort, the CDC recently awarded Public Health $2.5 million to help get HIV-positive Georgians into treatment.

Studies show that identifying — and effectively treating — people who are HIV-positive early in the course of their infections will not only reduce illness and deaths for those patients but will also reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.

Free HIV testing is available in Georgia. To find a location, call the Georgia AIDS and STD hotline at 800-551-2728.

And above is a video featuring Dr. James Curran, dean of Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, marking 31 years of the fight against AIDS.

Curran, who in 1981 coordinated the task force on AIDS at the CDC and then led its HIV/AIDS Division, speaks of Emory’s longtime role in the battle against the disease.