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Southern Tier

Local message on World AIDS Day: "Know your status"

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Local message on World AIDS Day: "Know your status"
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Twenty-five years after the first World AIDS Day was observed, almost 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV. Our Sarah Blazonis has more on the challenges AIDS resource advocates face in getting people to learn their status.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- All it takes is a prick of the finger in AIDS Community Resources' mobile unit for people to know their HIV status. But six months after its unveiling, intervention specialists say response to the unit's testing option isn't what they'd hoped.

"They will continue to take the condoms and the information, but we're just hearing an array of excuses," said Denise Welch, ACR's Communities of Color Intervention Specialist for Syracuse and Utica.

It's a challenge also faced in doctor's offices. The state requires HIV testing to be offered in any primary care health setting. New York's Department of Health says 850 new cases were detected across upstate in 2010, but because patients can decline testing, many more may be undiagnosed.

"A lot of people just figure, 'Well, out of sight is out of mind.' It's just denial. Where the fact is, if it's picked up early, it's one pill a day," said Dr. Mitchell Brodey, an infectious disease specialist with SUNY Upstate University Hospital's Community Campus.

Dr. Brodey says those pill a day options can offer a long, healthy life to those diagnosed early, but if people engaging in high risk behavior don't know their status, the outcome can be much different.

"Sometimes people come in and their first infection is a serious one, just like it was in 1980, and it may be irreversible," said Brodey.

Dr. Brodey says he doesn't believe a vaccine is ahead in the near future and for now, prevention is the best weapon in the fight against HIV.

"The next step is people actually becoming proactive and getting tested," said Welch. "There's multiple places in the city where people can go for testing, but people are not accessing the services to initially get tested."

It's a message intervention specialists hope the public takes to heart so fewer new cases are seen over World AIDS Day's next 25 years.

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