HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s been 40 years since the world announced its first cases of aids and since then the virus has claimed millions of lives globally and more than 700,000 in the United States. 

The cases in the state of Alabama are growing and health professionals are gathered Wednesday to discuss a new path at the World AIDS Day event at Huntsville Hospital.

According to Thrive Alabama, over 150 people die each year from AIDS-related complications due to treatment issues, lack of insurance and lack of access to doctors.

Erin Bortel, the Director of Health Education at Thrive Alabama, says these are just some of the key reasons why almost half of the nearly 3,000 HIV-positive cases in the state have progressed to an AIDS diagnosis.

“We see an increase in the number of newly diagnosed people living with HIV in Alabama every year,” Bortel said.

While the attention is being paid more to other public health priorities, like the coronavirus, people had a tougher time accessing care for HIV treatment.  

Bortel also said, “We and other people in our situations have really worked hard to make sure that we’ve addressed those concerns and we are fully functioning and operating today just like we have been through every day of this mess.” 

According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.2 million diagnosed cases exist in the United States. Nearly half of those people don’t know that they have AIDS. 

In Alabama, that is the main issue when it comes to the diagnosis. 

“It’s one of the reasons that we are gathering today is so people understand the importance of learning your HIV status so that you can get care and treatment if you need it,” Bortel explained. 

Wednesday, the White House announced its new initiative in battling the AIDS epidemic. The World AIDS event in Huntsville focuses on those who can’t afford the treatments as the main priority to this deadly disease.