North Dakota’s First Ever HIV Awareness Walk Gets Rid of Misconceptions Behind the Virus

The North Dakota Community Planning Group, Family Healthcare and the North Dakota Department of Health put on the walk

FARGO, N.D. — The HIV virus has been in the United States since the 1970’s but to this day, it still carries a stigma with it.

“People think someone is HIV infected because they’re a gay man or they do drugs and stuff like that,” said Ryan Braunberger, community co-chair of the North Dakota Community Planning Group.

Braunberger says it’s one of the most common myths out there.

Another one he frequently hears people say is that those who are infected can’t live a normal life.

“They can actually live a very long life as long as they use the medications that are available out there,” Braunberger said.

Instead of letting the game of telephone continue, people across the metro are getting learning from the people who have dealt with HIV firsthand.

“We want to make sure we’re starting a conversation because if people are willing to be open about it and talk about it, they’re also willing to be tested for it, to prevent the spread of it to be able to know that they’re going into a relationship and everybody’s status and understand it,” Braunberger said.

North Dakota’s first ever HIV/AIDS awareness walk is meant to get the conversation rolling, and for the doctors who treat HIV patients, they say it’s about time.

“I was excited and the reason why is many of my patients come in feeling down and depressed, thinking ‘what would other people think when they know that I have HIV?’ They think people are going to stay away from them,” said Abiola Fashanu, infectious diseases physician at Sanford Health. “They’re friends will no longer be their friends, but this kind of work helps to address the misconceptions.”

Misconceptions affecting more than 400 people in North Dakota and 1.1 million in the United States overall.

“HIV’s numbers are going up. They’re still continuously going up today even though there’s plenty of ways to prevent it by doing testing and things like that,” Braunberger said.

Braunberger says for every person who gets tested and helps break down another stigma, the number could start to drop.

“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t realize it’s an actual issue in the state of North Dakota. Being able to do this and teach people the different facts and myths about HIV and have people aware of that will help stop that spread,” Braunberger said.

Braunberger wants to remind people that you can’t get HIV by touching someone.

You can only contract the virus through sharing bodily fluids with someone else.

There is no cure for HIV but doctors say those who treat it properly can live almost as long as someone who doesn’t have the virus.

Categories: Community, Health, Local News, North Dakota News