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FOR RELEASE: November 26, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

World AIDS Day Observed December 1

“Live and Let Live” is this year’s theme for World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2003. Health officials will use this observance to focus on eliminating the stigma and discrimination faced by those who are infected with HIV/AIDS.

According to statistics released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), there are currently 2,500 individuals living with HIV and another 1,900 persons living with AIDS in Oklahoma. Since 1983, a cumulative total of 4,250 people have been diagnosed with AIDS in our state. People living with AIDS cross every race, religion, sex, and social background.

“Fear of discrimination often keeps people from getting tested or from acknowledging their HIV status publicly,” said OSDH HIV/STD Service Chief William R. Pierson. “The stigma often extends to the next generation by placing an emotional burden on children who may be trying to cope with the death of their parents from AIDS and the fact that they may be infected also. World AIDS Day provides another opportunity for us to call attention to this serious world epidemic and end this cycle of fear and discrimination.”

Numerous organizations will be available on Dec. 1 to provide free confidential HIV testing and counseling services. For a list of counseling and testing sites near you, or for more information about HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma, please call the HIV/STD Service at the OSDH, 405/271-4636, or your local county health department.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, and the connection between HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, or to locate a free HIV test site close to you, call the Oklahoma HIV/AIDS Hotline, 1-800-535-AIDS, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and TDD/TTY accessible. All calls to the HIV/AIDS Hotline are confidential. For more information on HIV/AIDS prevention, research and testing visit www.omhrc.gov/worldaidsday.

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