By Jennifer Loren, News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Monday was World AIDS Day, a day set aside each year to recognize the efforts to combat the AIDS epidemic and continue educating people about its ongoing presence.
But many people believe AIDS is a disappearing disease in America.
According to the Centers for Disease Control infection rates are on the rise in America and the same is true in Oklahoma.
In front of dozens of people, gathered for an AIDS Day service in Tulsa, one woman says she's been living with HIV for 16 years. She is one of thousands in Oklahoma.
According to the state health department there are 4,521 people living with HIV and AIDS statewide.
They say about a quarter of those people live in Tulsa County where 1,257 people have been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. But those are just the people diagnosed in Oklahoma.
Local experts told the crowd there are actually about 1,800 people in Tulsa County living with the disease and the numbers are rising.
"I think it's both troubling and surprising. We've been reaching out to all ages, all populations, trying to get people educated so that they'll stay safe from the virus and still I think there are a lot of myths surrounding HIV," said Janice Nicklas of the Tulsa Community AIDS Partnership.
At programs like this across the state and country, people take time to remember those lost to AIDS and to educate people about the disease's continued threat.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma health department says they're focusing their education efforts on certain parts of the Oklahoma population where the infection rates are increasing dramatically.
Those populations include African American men and women, gay men and Hispanic men and women. But local experts remind us, HIV and AIDS can affect anyone.
"In the past we've really targeted populations that we considered to be at high risk. But now they're saying the responsible thing to do is for all Americans to test and know where they are in terms of HIV," said Nicklas.