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World Aids Day observed
7 December 2011

Dr. Steven Johnson, Denver, CO, guest speaker at UTTC’s observance of “World Aids Day” 2011.

BISMARCK (UTN) - As the college has done in the past, United Tribes Technical College used “World Aids Day 2011” as an educational opportunity. A program of information and education was conducted December 1 at the college.

      “It’s important to our students, staff and other community members that we persist in our efforts to improve understanding about HIV-AIDS,” said David M. Gipp, United Tribes President, in a statement encouraging participation. “Because of new medicines, treatment, and changes in social behavior, the virus and its effects can be greatly deterred and dealt with. But American Indians are still at greater risk than the general population. And prevention is the key.”

      The UTTC audience heard from guest speaker Dr. Steven Johnson of the Denver Medical Center, Denver, CO, a specialist in the field.

      “North Dakota has the distinction of having one of the lowest rates of HIV infection in the United States,” said Johnson. “That’s a good thing and it’s important that we talk about HIV today and keep that rate very, very low.”

      According to the North Dakota Department of Health website, 227 people are living with HIV in the state, said Johnson. Seventy-eight percent are male and 22 percent female.

      “This is a disease of young adults and also adolescents who are sexually active,” said Johnson. “Sexual activity is the most common way that HIV is transmitted.”

      Johnson pointed out that there are more tools available now to fight HIV. Twenty-six different medications have been approved.


  • HIV: A virus that damages the body’s white blood cells.
  • AIDS: A term that describes a condition where the immune system has been weakened by the HIV virus.
  • Over 1 million people are living with the HIV infection in the U. S.
  • 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the U. S.
  • 50,000 new infections in the U. S. each year.
  • ND has one of the lowest rates of HIV in the country. The ND Dept. of Health has specific information about HIV in North Dakota: http://www.ndhealth.gov/HIV/default.htm, 800.706.3448.
– Dr. Steven Johnson

      “The fact that we have so many medications now it has transformed HIV infection from an illness that many people died from to one that many people can live a long life with,” he said. “The treatments for HIV have been called the most dramatic gains in lifesaving therapy in the last 25 years in all of medicine.”

      “People who are living with HIV and take these medications have the potential to live a normal lifespan now,” he said. “We’ve really transformed this disease from an infection that caused a lot of illness to now a very manageable disease.”

      From his clinic experience in Denver, Johnson said the advent of treatment has reduced the number of deaths from AIDS from 10 percent in 1995 to less than one-half-of-one percent last year. “For those familiar with HIV-AIDS as a serious illness, you can see the importance of these treatments.”

      Johnson said one of the key messages on “World Aids Day” is the importance of finding people who are living with HIV and getting them into treatment with effective therapies. That will improve their personal health and help prevent transmission of the disease.

      Johnson pointed out that reducing the number who become infected with HIV is the number one goal of the Obama Administration. Following that is to increase care and optimize health for those living with HIV, and third is to reduce HIV related disparities. Certain people in the United States are disproportionally affected, including people of color and the poor, he said.

      Johnson emphasized that HIV testing is a way to learn more accurate information how the disease with respect to minority populations and the mainstream.

      The UTTC observance of “World Aids Day” was sponsored by these United Tribes programs: Chemical Health Center, Strengthening Lifestyles, Student Health Center and the Wellness Circle. An event at UTTC to mark the national observance of Native American HIV/AIDS Prevention will take place in March 2012.

      More information Julie Cain 701-255-3285 x 1276 jcain@uttc.edu.


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