BILLINGS - People all around the globe are remembering the lives lost to HIV/AIDS on World Aids Day 2022. While progress has been made in prevention and treatment, there are calls for more to be done to finally bring the epidemic—which began four decades ago—to an end.
A service to mark Worlds Aids Day was held in Billings Thursday night at Billings First Church.
“The inequalities that perpetuate the AIDS epidemic are not inevitable. We can tackle them. This World Aids Day let us all commit to addressing the inequalities that are holding back progress in ending AIDS,” said Pastor Becky Thatcher Taylor, one of the speakers at the event.
Those in attendance prayed for those with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who have been lost and their families and loved ones.
More than 40 million people around the world have died since the epidemic began.
In Montana, more than 800 people are living with HIV/AIDS, and so far this year, 15 people have tested positive for HIV in Yellowstone County.
“HIV is definitely not going away,” says Jace Dyckman, Riverstone Health’s HIV prevention program coordinator.
“One of our goals of our HIV prevention team and outreach team is to kind of be out in the community and let people know who we are and do free HIV free testing and free Hepatitis testing,” he says.
While HIV/AIDS is not the death sentence it was once considered to be, Dyckman says early detection is key and new drug treatments can make the virus virtually undetectable.
“If we can get you into care, there is less damage to your body and your immune system. Those medications work. I’ve seen them work miracles within weeks,” Dyckman said.
“For us, it is a time to lament and grieve but it is also a real call to action, so that we might come together. The theme for World Aids Day this year 2022 is equalize. How can we equalize and find equity in resources? How can we find equity in policy making? So it’s really a call to action,” said Pastor Lisa Harmon of Billings First Church, which hosted the service.