Trump: Arkansas Part of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) – In his most recent State of the Union address, President Donald Trump shined the spotlight on what he’s calling an epidemic in Arkansas.

President Trump identified Arkansas as one of the seven states he’s targeting as at-risk of HIV and AIDS infections.

In Northwest Arkansas, we have the second highest population of HIV and AIDS in the state.

President Trump said, “My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”

Nationally, President Trump says we have made strides in the HIV epidemic, but local leaders close to the issue say that’s not the case.

“There’s not a whole lot of resources within the Northwest Arkansas area for people with HIV,” said Mark Williams, Pastor of Spirit of Peace Church.

To combat this, Pastor Mark Williams of Spirit of Peace Church in Fayetteville provides free HIV and AIDS testing for anyone who needs it.
 
Williams also provides packets full of information for people who don’t understand the disease.
 
But to him, it’s not enough to fill the gap.
 
“You can go in and say I’m on Atripla, or I’m on another type of HIV medication and they’ll say, what is that? And you’ll have to almost educate them,” He said. 
 
According to the state Department of Health, Northwest Arkansas has the second highest population of HIV and AIDS in the state, with Central Arkansas housing the most.
 
But why is the rate so high? Williams speculates it’s due to the thousands of college students who call Fayetteville home.
 
“They don’t realize that one, simple night out could be a lifetime disease,” said Williams.
 
Looking ahead, he says he wants to change the stigma of getting treated for HIV and AIDS.
 
Williams said, “I think that’s very empowering that they’re coming forward and saying, ‘I want to be tested.” He adds, “I am an HIV survivor, or thriver I should say.”

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