Thursday marks World AIDS Day, and a chance for the Boulder County AIDS Project to remind the community that many fight against the epidemic year-round.
The organization serves hundreds of people living with HIV in Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties.
As of 2020, there were around 590 people living HIV in those counties, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Between 2016 and 2020, there were 54 new diagnoses of HIV in Boulder County, said Mariah Frank, prevention director for the Boulder County AIDS Project.
The organization’s central goal aligns with that of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is to end the epidemic by 2030, Frank said. Other goals include reducing cases by 75% by 2025, and 90% by 2030.
Other agencies that are working toward these goals are Colorado’s health department and Boulder County Public Health, which monitor the latest HIV data, interventions and strategies to make progress in battling the epidemic, Frank said.
The Boulder County AIDS Project runs several programs to help educate people on HIV risk and prevention, including a free and confidential HIV, hepatitis C and sexually-transmitted infection testing service at its office, 2118 14th St., in Boulder. The free testing is also offered in the group’s partner locations. Each testing session includes HIV education and risk reduction counseling.
The group also gives educational presentations about HIV in local middle and high schools, and community groups.
The organization’s latest initiative is its PrEP Services program, which aims to educate people about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, a daily medication that people can take if they’re HIV-negative and want to protect themselves from transmission.
Another program run by the AIDS project, Syringe Access, provides harm-reduction services to people who use and/or inject drugs and people experiencing homelessess. The program offers new syringes, counseling, harm-reduction education, health partner referrals, wound care supplies, food, beverages, masks, hand sanitizer and warming supplies, Frank said. The initiative also provides naloxone, a medicine that reverses an opioid overdose.
The organization also facilitates the Atlas Program, a service-learning group for gay and bisexual men, and their allies. The group offers education and support for HIV prevention.
While there is no vaccine for HIV and no cure, there are successful treatment options to suppress the virus and prevent it from being sexually transmitted, Frank said.
But many people who are HIV-positive don’t have access to that treatment, she explained.
“This inequity contributes to HIV transmission and the progression of HIV to AIDS,” she said in a statement. “On World AIDS Day and every day, it’s important that we work for equity.”
The organization is hosting a ‘Never Quit Fighting’ event Thursday night to mark World AIDS Day. The event will feature Eric Sawyer, a co-founder of some of the top AIDS activist organizations in the U.S., including Housing Works, Inc., ACT UP NY and Health GAP, Inc.
More information on how to support the Boulder County AIDS Project can be found here.