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Lt. Governor Calls on Montanans to Fight HIV/AIDS

By Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger
Date: Friday, December 1, 2006
Contact: Judy Nielsen, HIV Programs Coordinator, DPHHS, 406-444-4744
Gayle Shirley, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, 406-444-2596

Lt. Governor John Bohlinger called on Montanans to make fighting HIV and AIDS a priority during a news conference Friday at the State Capitol. The event was held in conjunction with World AIDS Day, an annual event that was first declared by the World Health Organization and the United Nations in 1988.

"When dealing with HIV/AIDS, a single new transmission is one too many," Bohlinger said.

This year marks the 25th year since AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was first identified. More than 25 million people have died of AIDS-related causes since 1981, according to the World AIDS Campaign.

In Montana, about 440 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, and an estimated 100-150 more are unaware that they are infected. Since 1985, when the state first began collecting AIDS-related data, 734 Montanans have been infected and 282 have died.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS. HIV is primarily spread by sexual contact with an infected person or by sharing hypodermic needles with someone who is infected.

"Over the past two and half decades, we have learned of relatives, friends and people from our own church and communities who have become infected," the lieutenant governor said. "Our values demand that we do not judge, but that we help. Everyone has a role to play in our fight against HIV/AIDS."

Bohlinger, who is a member of the Governor's HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, said the group is proud to endorse Governor Brian Schweitzer's budget proposal to increase from $84,000 to $300,000 the amount of state general funds spent on HIV medications during the 2008-2009 biennium. The money would be used to provide medication to more people through the Montana AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). Montana is one of six states with a waiting list for the program.

The Governor's HIV/AIDS Advisory Council has also recommended that people with HIV be given priority for chemical dependency treatment.