INDIANAPOLIS — Friday is World AIDS Day — a day to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and honor the lives affected by the epidemic.
Here in Central Indiana, organizations are hard at work to reduce the spread of the virus and provide resources to those living with it.
The Marion County Public Health Department wants to remind folks in the community of the importance of knowing your status.
There is power in knowing.
That's why the department encourages you to get tested for HIV.
“There are treatments that can help people live a long life. HIV is no longer a death sentence," Michael Butler, Director of the Ryan White/HIV Services Program, said.
Ryan White Services helps Hoosiers living with HIV receive primary medical care, health services and housing and utility assistance.
On Friday, the health department is hosting an open house in honor of World AIDS Day.
The open house is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1650 N College Ave.
The focus is on STD/STI testing, mental health and social work and how to live with HIV later in life.
“Often times, people don’t know what services are available and where those services can be accessed. I think there’s still a lot of stigma that prevents some people from accessing services or getting tested and knowing that they have HIV," Butler said.
Here in Marion county there are roughly 6,000 people who’ve been diagnosed with HIV.
There’s an estimated additional 800 living with the virus who are unaware of their status.
According to this years data, the majority of new HIV diagnoses are among men under the age of 35.
HIV is particularly high in minority communities.
African Americans make up about 10 percent of the population, but represent 60 percent of new diagnoses in Marion County.
“I think people still don’t realize anyone who is sexually active or engaging in injection drug use could be exposed to HIV through those behaviors," Butler said.