World AIDS Day: Spokane continues to fight 'huge challenge' of AIDS cases, stigma 40 years later

<p><p>More than 700,000 American lives have been lost to HIV/AIDS since the first cases were reported in the U.S. 40 years ago.</p></p><p><p>On World AIDS Day, which was Wednesday, about 60 people gathered at the Washington Cracker Building in downtown Spokane to remember those who have died from the disease, to raise awareness of rising HIV cases and to end the stigma that often comes along with the virus.</p></p><p><p>“HIV has cost America too much for too long and remains a significant public health issue,” said Grant Ogren, executive director of the Spokane AIDS Network, which hosted Wednesday’s AIDS event.</p></p><p><p>Ogren said more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and many more are at risk of infection.</p></p><p><p>New HIV diagnoses have declined significantly since its peak, but progress has stalled, with an estimated 38,000 Americans being diagnosed each year, Ogren said.</p></p><p><p>Without intervention, Ogren said nearly 400,000 more Americans will be diagnosed over the next decade despite the availability of prevention measures and treatment. There is no cure for the disease.</p></p><p><p>Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs read a proclamation from the city that designated Wednesday as World AIDS Day.</p></p><p><p>“I think we’ve come a long way when the city is officially acknowledging World AIDS Day and the work that needs to be done,” Beggs said.</p></p><p><p>The proclamation asked community members to end the epidemic in their lifetime.</p></p><p><p>“I still think that regardless of all the work, and all the acknowledgment and all the success, we still have this huge challenge of stigma that is out there,” Beggs said.</p></p>