“Today is World AIDS Day. Back in 1988, it was the first health awareness day recognized around the world. The global AIDS pandemic began in the 1980s and has since claimed the lives of tens of millions people. AIDS has not been eradicated yet.   

AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is usually fatal. It is the late stage of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection that attacks the white blood cells, reducing the immune system’s ability to fight disease or infection. There is no cure for either.

“It is possible to detect HIV early. When that happens, advancements in treatment make it possible for those infected to keep it under control and live a full and active life.

“We have made great strides in reducing the discrimination felt by those living with AIDS or HIV, but more needs to be done. Exploring new treatment options and reducing the stigma requires honest and compassionate conversations about those risks with our partners and health-care providers.   

“Albertans are fortunate to have access to HIV testing and the best available treatments. Testing and treatment are free in Alberta, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your health-care provider about prevention strategies and regular testing. It is important to know that HIV may not show up in a blood test until one to three months after infection, so prevention is key to avoid unknowingly spreading it to others.

“On World AIDS Day, please join me in expressing your compassion and understanding for those living with HIV and AIDS, and to recognize and remember those who have lost their lives and their partners, families, friends and communities who grieve.”