OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Every year, World AIDS Day aims to raise awareness regarding the disease that affects millions globally.
Andi Curry Grubb, State Executive Director of Planned Parenthood, says a lot of progress has been made over the years but we still have some ways to go.
"There’s been a lot of progress. There’s been a lot that has changed but there’s still a lot of communities that are still negatively impacted by this disease so it’s really raising awareness both globally and locally about how folks can protect themselves and get educated about what’s available to them. How they can take care of themselves and then what’s happening across the world," Grubb said.
She said a lot of the progress that has been made has been in treatment for the disease. Treatment now allows for HIV to be less likely to turn into AIDS.
"Treatment is so good now, that someone if they’re getting treated early enough and in the right way, the disease can actually be undetectable in them. It’s not necessarily a cure but they’re less likely to transmit the disease to someone else or the virus to someone else," Grubb said.
Barriers still exist when it comes to AIDS awareness, accessibility to resources being one of them. Experts say stigma surrounding the disease is one of the main hurdles.
"I think stigma and shame around this and a lot of sexual and reproductive and health related topics continue to exist. I think that’s one of the barriers that we continue to have to overcome," Grubb said. "Unfortunately a lot of times that shame and that stigma and the lack of comfort that people have with talking about these things can lead to silence. And that silence is really what can be such significant barrier."
Having more conversations with friends and family members can break down the stigma regarding HIV and AIDS.
"Just really making HIV more of a conversation, I think that conversation lends itself to the more we know, the more we have access to. When they tell you knowledge is power there's truly something very meaningful about that. I think that the first thing is arming yourself with knowledge about HIV and then it just trickles down from there if you will," Tommy Dennis, outreach coordinator at Nebraska AIDS Project said.
Another barrier is cost of treatment. Grubb said for those who have great insurance and a bigger income, getting treatment can be a lot easier.
"If you are low income if you are uninsured or under insured the ability to access those things are more challenging. You usually have to work harder. You have to find the programs that are going to help you cover these services," Grubb said.