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Allegheny County HIV/AIDS Commission Provides Annual Report to City Council

Members of the Allegheny County HIV/AIDS Commission delivered an annual update to Pittsburgh City Council members Tuesday afternoon.

They recapped efforts they have made in the last year, spoke of partnerships and spoke of their plans for this coming year.

Commission member Betty Hill, who is also director of the Persad Center, said the awareness level of routine HIV testing is low, and the commission wants to change that.

“We want to try to take the notion of testing to the individual level. So that everyone requests, asks for, has available a test and that it becomes commonplace to do that,” she said.

They want to push providers to give tests as part of routine care, as well as encourage people to ask for tests during their annual physicals.

The 30-person commission meets every other month.

According to data from the Allegheny County Health Department, there have been 4,454 documented diagnosed cases of HIV in the county from 1980-2013.

1,828 of those people have passed away, and 2,626 people are living with the disease in the county. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of seven people with HIV don’t know they have it.

Linda Frank, a commission member and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh, said they believe that data stands in Allegheny County, and it's behind their push to make HIV testing a standard part of medical care, regardless of behaviors that may put people at higher risk for contracting the disease.

“One of the things that I believe that prevents people from getting into care or going to get tested remains the continued issues around stigma," she said. "This still remains a very stigmatized disease and the ways that people get infected are also stigmatized.”