(KCPW News) As Salt Lake City prepares to recognize World AIDS Day Saturday with several downtown events, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department is busy battling a rise in HIV infections that now dates back several years. Lynn Beltran, HIV and STD Program Manager, says from the mid-1990s to early 2000s the department averaged between 20 and 35 new cases of HIV per year.
“The rates are not slowing,” says Beltran. “This year I’m expecting to see between 80 to 100 new cases diagnosed here in Salt Lake County. Unfortunately, it was in the last five years where we thought we would start to see things slow down and that’s not happening.”
Beltran says HIV does not discriminate by race or class, but there have been at least 10 women infected this year, which she calls “unprecedented.” Beltran adds there are a number of reasons for the rise in HIV infections in Salt Lake County, including complacency amongst people in the age group that is most at risk.
“We are also starting to see a new sexual revolution right now where things are changing a lot with our attitudes across the board about sex. That’s affecting people by putting them at risk for a number of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV,” says Beltran.
Salt Lake City is holding several events Saturday to recognize World AIDS Day.
10:00 am – The Salt Lake Valley Health Department (SLVHD) hosts a screening of ESPN Films’ The Announcement at the Salt Lake City Main Library. The documentary follows the life of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the role he has played in HIV/AIDS awareness. The Salt Lake Film Society will also screen the film at the Tower Theatre (876 East 900 South) on Tuesday, December 4, at 7:00 p.m.
1:30 pm – Also at the Main Library, a balloon release raises a World AIDS Day banner several feet into the air.
5:30 pm – The Utah AIDS Foundation, Salt Lake City and the Downtown Alliance host the official Salt Lake City RED event at the Salt Lake City & County Building (west side), including a bell ceremony and the “lighting” of the historic structure. For more information about Salt Lake City RED, call 801-535-6040.