A pride flag ceremony in Silver Spring, Maryland, kicked off a major HIV education campaign in Montgomery County.
County Executive Marc Elrich told WTOP the goal is to eradicate HIV in the county by 2030.
The effort is called “Do It for Montgomery County” and features an education campaign and more opportunities for HIV testing, including one at the ceremony in Veterans plaza.
“This is one of those things where decisions we make as people can actually determine whether this continues or whether this ends,” Elrich said in an interview after the flag raising.
He said it’s estimated 1 in 7 people in Montgomery County who have HIV don’t know it.
“It’s better to know than not know,” Elrich said.
Montgomery County Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said the county received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the program and it was identified as one of 48 counties across the country that contribute 50% of new HIV cases.
“Our goal is to get as many people as possible to know their status and for persons living with HIV to make sure that they are connected to care, connected to resources to get them to an undetectable status,” Gayles said.
For those who don’t think they need to get tested, Gayles said there are multiple reasons why it’s important to know your status.
“We have been able to make great strides in terms of the medications we have and in terms of extending life expectancy, but I tell all of the patients that I’ve seen in the past that it’s not a death sentence that it was before, but getting in connection with these resources if you have HIV will help you greatly to have a healthier, longer life.”
More details on the program can be found on Montgomery County’s website.