World AIDS Day: A Day of Empowerment

It's a day of mourning, a day of acceptance and a day of awareness.

Monday marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

It's a date riddled with sobering statistics.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 1 million Americans infected with HIV. More than 25 percent of those people don't know it.

Here in Connecticut, it's a bittersweet day.  Activists, health officials and patients are celebrating the progress made in the battles against HIV and AIDS but they're also concerned about the future of that battle.

According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, there have been 18,950 cases of HIV/AIDS reported in Connecticut since 1982 and 43 percent of those patients have died.

In September, the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a report on AIDS. The report said there are currently 10,889 Connecticut residents living with AIDS. That's 252 cases per 100,000 people.

Now for the Catch 22. The Connecticut Department of Public Health is facing a serious budget crisis.  According to Connecticut's Statewide AIDS Coalition (CARC), one of the ways the department is dealing with the crisis is a proposed $3 million cut to AIDS services.

"If the proposed cuts are allowed to go through, we will find ourselves on the precipice of disaster as an HIV/AIDS community," said Shawn Lang, Director of Public Policy for CARC.  "The fragile safety net, which now exists, will be torn to shreds and the remaining tatters will be left to blow and scatter in the winds of a shamefully apathetic lack of political will."

Lang said the timing couldn't be worse. 

"Proposing cuts at a time when the number of people with HIV/ADS is rising is (a) counter intuitive public health policy and an insult to the themes of World AIDS Day.

Lang will lead a commemoration ceremony at Community Health Services in Hartford on Monday.  It's just one of many events going on across the state.

The Traveling Quilt

Also on Monday, a section of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display in Milford. The quilt is filled with 47,000 patches - each one representing a life lost to AIDS. Two sections of the quilt will be unveiled Monday evening at a 7 p.m. service at the Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church.

Preventing Infection

In recognition of World AIDS Day, Waterbury Hospital has launched a new service.

The hospital is the first in the state to offer free HIV testing during an emergency room visit.

It's a simple oral test that yields results in 20 minutes.

If the result is negative, the patient will receive information on what they can do to stay negative. If the result is positive, patients will undergo a confirmatory blood test and receive counseling.

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