|The Houston Health Department (HHD) joins the world on December 1 in remembering the millions of lives lost to AIDS. The department urges awareness, education, and testing to help prevent the spread of HIV in Houston communities.
People can find the department’s health center nearest to them or other free testing locations by calling 832-393-5010 or visiting HoustonHealth.org for more information.
For the past 34 years people gather in solidarity to commemorate World AIDS Day to remember people who have died or are still living with HIV.
Since the start of the epidemic over 36 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses and close to 37 million people were living with HIV worldwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although there have been many breakthroughs, researchers continue to look for a cure.
“World AIDS day helps us remember why prevention through testing is important in the fight against the disease,” said Marlene McNeese, deputy assistant director of the department’s Bureau of HIV/STD & Viral Hepatitis Prevention. “It’s up to all of us to create awareness of free testing available to the public and how pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can help slow the spread.”
HIV testing, according to the CDC, sharply decreased in health care and non-health care settings from 2019 to 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began, prompting an urgent need to increase testing.
The decline in testing includes 49% of gay and bisexual men, 47% transgender people, 46% Hispanic and Latino people, and 44% among Black people.
More than 1,169 new HIV diagnoses and 117 HIV-related deaths in Houston and Harris County were reported to the department in 2021. As of 2020, over 28,200 people were living with HIV in the Houston and Harris County and nearly 1.5 million new cases were reported worldwide.
The CDC aims to reduce the number of new diagnoses through the End the HIV Epidemic in the United States by 2030 initiative. The strategy includes diagnoses, treatment, and prevention in Harris County based on the number of new diagnoses.
HIV continues to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic groups including gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
The department offers PrEP, non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (nPEP) and free and confidential HIV and STI testing at all four of its health centers to help prevent and detect new diagnoses.