LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Today is National HIV, AIDS, and Aging Awareness Day. It’s a diagnosis that affects thousands of Michiganders and experts say it still carries some stigma, some educators are working to change that.

6 news sat down with one Michigander who’s been living with HIV for more than 30 years. He says progress has come a long way and is hopeful research will continue to move forward.

1.2 million, that’s how many people are living the HIV in the U.S. with or without knowing according to CDC. Among that group is Leon Golson, Director of Prevention Programs at Unified HIV health and beyond based in Michigan.

He’s turning what was originally a bad situation into something good.
“We want to make sure at the end of the day we’re a part of the solution vs. being part of the problem,” said Golson.

He says since the ’80s so much has changed with handling HIV and AIDS.
“I’ve gone from 14 pills a day down to 1 pill a day. They’ve really gotten HIV where it’s quite manageable. Provided one a person can get access to the medication, and two can stay on the medication once they get it,” said Golson.

Now he’s working to educate others.
“Some of those mindsets are still out there that only certain people who do certain things may find themselves having to deal or worry about HIV. It’s really about what you’re doing not so much who you are,” he said.

He’s not alone in the fight for the education of HIV and AIDS. Professors at the University of Michigan are working to make sure other health issues in people with the virus do not get dismissed.

“Sometimes those may be the mild cognitive problems associated with HIV or other times they may be the cognitive problems associated with some other disorder that’s going on,” said Dr. Brino Giordani.

Dr. Giordani and his team are helping doctors identify the difference. As for Golson, he’s encouraged by the progress of all research focused on helping those with the virus. He plans to continue to be a support system for others.

“Our job as an agency supported by the local and state health department is to make sure our community members are as healthy as possible,” Giordani said.