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Published November 28, 2012, 11:30 PM

World AIDS Day program slated for Friday

Event to be held at Moorhead’s First Congregational United Church of Christ
MOORHEAD – Awareness and education are the goals of a World AIDS Day community program here Friday.

By: Angie Wieck, INFORUM

MOORHEAD – Awareness and education are the goals of a World AIDS Day community program here Friday.

Minnkota Health Project volunteers are sponsoring events at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 406 8th St. S.

A spaghetti dinner and silent auction to fund local HIV/AIDS awareness efforts is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m., with a suggested donation of $5.

A panel discussion led by Dr. Paul Mariani, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Medical Center, will follow.

The number of cases of individuals living with HIV/AIDS continues to grow. Statistics provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Health show 290 new cases were reported in 2011, contributing to a total of 7,136 individuals living with HIV/AIDS in the state. The North Dakota Department of Health reported 11 new cases in 2011, putting the total at 248.

While improvements in treatment have been crucial in improving the quality and longevity of life for those diagnosed, it is also one reason the number of new cases continues to grow, Minnkota says.

People don’t perceive a diagnosis as the “death sentence” it was seen as 15 to 20 years ago, said Minnkota board member Rogahn said.

Rogahn said treatment is more difficult than many realize. Patients are required to take 30-plus pills a day, remain forever vigilant against other viruses and diseases, maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of both exercise and rest in order to stay healthy.

Rogahn cited a lack of continued media coverage and decreasing public awareness as reasons for the continued spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

The primary focus of the Minnkota Health Project is to promote public education and awareness.

Also important is providing support to people and families who are living with or affected by HIV/AIDS and/or another sexually transmitted infection.

Minnkota facilitates HIV/AIDS support groups in Bemidji, Brainerd, Moorhead, East Grand Forks, Glenwood, Willmar and Alexandria in Minnesota, and one in Bismarck.

Meetings in Moorhead at noon on the second Saturday and fourth Wednesday of the month. The location is not public due to the confidential nature of the group. For more information, call (877) 871-4636 or (320) 634-0312.

Minnkota is the only organization of its kind in the tri-state area that is staffed 100 percent by volunteers.

While the group receives help from a few state and national organizations, a substantial portion of its budget is fueled by fundraisers such as the one Friday.

Proceeds will be used to support education efforts and to cover the organization’s operating expenses.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501