Health officials urge people to get tested on World AIDS Day - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Health officials urge people to get tested on World AIDS Day

(KFVS) -

World AIDS Day was first recognized in 1988. It is the first ever global health day and it falls on December 1.

As of 2012, approximately 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV or AIDS and we are seeing a growing trend right here in the Heartland.

Steven St. Julian is very open about his diagnosis, hoping it helps to erase the stigma that surrounds HIV and AIDS.

Living with the virus for more than 30 years, St. Julian said his HIV has developed into AIDS.

St. Julian said he even came close to death when his T cells, which are important lymphocytes needed for one's immune system, dropped to 12.

Today, though, he manages his disease through prescription medication he has to take twice a day.

He jokes his biggest health issue is his cholesterol.

While he thinks World AIDS day will bring more awareness to how serious the condition is, he takes time during this day to remember countless friends he has lost from HIV or AIDS over the years.

"Certainly a big part of this day is to remember, remember the people who are gone," St. Julian said. "I think the proper thing to do is to grieve for those lost friendships, lost relatives and their loss to the world."

He said it is frustrating to see a much younger generation getting infected with the virus when it is 100 percent preventable.

In fact, in southern Illinois, 86 percent of new cases are in people between the ages of 15-24 years old.

Paula Clark, the director of HIV Services at the Jackson County Health Department, said the rise is due in part to so many people not knowing if they have the virus.

For every 10 people who have HIV, six of them don't know they have it.

To find out where you can get tested, Clark said to contact your local health department. 

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