HIV/AIDS affecting thousands in western Massachusetts

World AIDS Day is celebrated each December 1st, since 1988

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Every 9 and a half minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with AIDS. Though the national stigma of AIDS has faded significantly over decades, the incurable disease is still alive in our community.

As of 2010, nearly 2,000 people were living with the disease in western Massachusetts, half of them were in Springfield alone. Springfield College hosted an educational event Thursday night, but only two students showed up. It didn’t discourage Felicia Lundquist from sharing her story.

Lundquist told 22News, “My friends would not want to come over because they’d be afraid to sit on the toilet seat or were afraid to eat from t same dishes, and those things are real. If we don’t talk about it it gets swept under the rug and people forget.”

CDC: Needle exchanges help reduce HIV rates

HIV and AIDS can only be transferred through sexual contact, needle sharing or breastfeeding. Those with AIDS can become chronically sick, and have a hard time keeping up with work, making it even harder to afford treatment.

“A lot of it is financial assistance,” said Chirs Fenton of the AIDS Foundation of Western Massachusetts. “A lot of people are struggling in the community, and that’s where we step in and do what we can to support them, whether it’s health care or heating in the winter.”

The CDC says more than 1,200 people died of AIDS last year in New England.

Here are ways to protect yourself from contracting HIV/AIDS:

  • Get tested at least once or more if you are at risk
  • Use condoms the right way during each time of sexual intercourse
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Don’t inject drugs, or if you do, don’t share needles
  • Get tested and treated for other STDs