St. Louis County partners with 2 local organizations to stop HIV spread

"H is for Human" campaign
"H is for Human" campaign(Northern News Now)
Published: Jun. 27, 2023 at 12:08 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - St. Louis County and community partners are sharing the importance of HIV testing.

Tuesday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.

HIV is the virus that can cause AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

Officials say without treatment, HIV attacks and weakens the immune system, which makes people living with HIV vulnerable to a variety of infections and some cancers. While there is no vaccine or cure for HIV, treatment is so effective that people living with HIV can live a long and healthy life.

St. Louis County, specifically Duluth and a 30-mile radius around it, has been experiencing an outbreak of HIV since 2019, according to officials.

In the past, the county saw between zero to five newly infected individuals in a year.

However, there have been 37 individuals newly confirmed to be infected in the last five years with 27 being in Duluth and 10 in the surrounding region.

With grant funding from the Minnesota Department of Health, St. Louis County Public Health is working with American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) and Fond du Lac Human Services to tell the community about the risk of catching or spreading the virus, the importance of getting tested, and treatment options.

Leaders say their campaign, “H is for Human,” serves as a powerful reminder of what’s at stake, and that every life is worth protecting.

The ads feature a painting by Ely artist Shaun Chosa. The painting is titled “Zhaabwii,” the Ojibwe word for survivor.

“This is about reaching human beings and reminding them they matter and there is hope,” said Rillis Eklund, St. Louis County Public Health Nurse. “We are grateful to work with community partners who can better help us educate people about preventing infection and protecting themselves, and that help is available.”

“AICHO is very excited to partner with St. Louis County Public Health and Fond du Lac Human Services on this project,” said Sasheen Goslin, Health Equity Director at AICHO. “We are stronger together and we hope to bring greater awareness to the HIV outbreak in our area. Miigwech to Shaun Chosa for partnering with us on this incredible project.”

Representatives from St. Louis County Public Health, AICHO and Fond du Lac Human Services will have informational booths set up at numerous community events throughout the summer.

To learn more about the campaign click here.

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