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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

November 26, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

World AIDS Day event to honor five Montanans

Five Montanans will be honored Monday, December 2, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the Capitol Rotunda for a World AIDS Day event sponsored by the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

The event commemorates World AIDS Day 2013 and coincides with similar events around the globe.

Those being honored include:

  • Stephanie Cole, Community Outreach and Prevention Specialist, Missoula
  • Lisa Fairman, Body Work Therapist, Helena
  • Christopher Gehring, HIV Outreach Worker and MORE Project Evaluator, Missoula,
  • Greg Smith, Director, AIDS Outreach, Bozeman
  • Chantz Thilmony, MpowermentMT Coordinator for Gay Men's Task Force, Missoula

Governor Steve Bullock and DPHHS Director Richard Opper will present the awards to the recipients.

"These dedicated and caring individuals are making a significant difference in the lives of those living with HIV," Governor Bullock said. "I am grateful for the service and commitment of these five award recipients as they are leading the way."

The theme of the 2013 World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero: Zero New HIV Infections. Zero Discrimination. Zero AIDS-related Deaths."

According to DPHHS Director Richard Opper, World AIDS Day brings awareness to a devastating disease that has taken the lives of more than 400 Montanans since 1985, and continues to debilitate the lives of those living with HIV and their families. 

"In numerous Montana communities, individuals are working tirelessly to alleviate the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV," Opper said. "I think it's so important to honor this work and encourage others to join in this effort."

In Montana, 586 people are living with HIV or AIDS. That number, although low, is too high.  More than one million Americans are currently living with HIV or AIDS. Approximately 56,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year and half of them are teenagers.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS. HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual activity with an infected person, or by sharing hypodermic needles with someone who is infected. There is still no cure, but breakthrough antiretroviral medicines have greatly increased the life expectancy of people living with HIV and AIDS.

The public is invited to attend the commemoration that will begin at 2 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

Page last updated 11/26/2013