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As people around the globe observe World AIDS Day, AIDS Project of the Ozarks is celebrating a miles

 AIDS Project of the Ozarks' main office at 1636 S. Glenstone, Suite 100, in Springfield
AIDS Project of the Ozarks' main office at 1636 S. Glenstone, Suite 100, in Springfield

APO offers medical services and testing.

Today is World AIDS Day, a global movement to unite people in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Locally, AIDS Project of the Ozarks has been working since the mid 1980s to provide medical services and testing. APO's services include "primary medical care, counseling and testing, case management, prevention, education to the general public, wrap-around services to persons with HIV infection and more, all in a confidential, caring environment," according to its website. APO also offers primary medical care to those who are not living with HIV, in a safe, inclusive environment.

Recently, the nonprofit reached a milestone: 96% of its clients have achieved viral suppression.

“That’s really, really important because, if an individual with HIV is virally suppressed, they cannot transmit the virus to someone else, and their long term health is much, much better,” said Lynne Meyerkord, APO’s executive director, “because what the viral suppression means is that there’s not measurable amounts of the virus in their blood.”

She said that doesn’t mean they’re cured. They are still HIV positive, but she calls it a “huge game changer” for individual and public health.

Medical treatment for those who are HIV positive has advanced significantly over the past few decades. Even though there’s still no vaccine, Meyerkord says there’s now a medication that will reduce the likelihood of someone contracting the virus by 99%.

World AIDS Day used to be a memorial service to remember those who have died of AIDS, according to Meyerkord. She said we still need to remember those who have died and who continue to die of the illness. But now the day is also a chance now to raise awareness of the treatments that are available for HIV.

“HIV is still here,” she said. “It’s an issue worldwide. Millions of people still die, but we’re fortunate in this country to have the tools to prevent that.”

The Springfield Art Museum has partnered with AIDS Project of the Ozarks to host an event Saturday night, December 2, at 6 at the art museum auditorium to mark World AIDS Day. It will include short remarks by Meyerkord and the screening of five short films commissioned by Visual AIDS.

If you get there early, you’ll also have the chance to see “Jordan Eagles: One Blood,” an exhibition that continues through February 18.

Copyright 2023 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Michele Skalicky