The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services are hoping to increase awareness about the risks, prevention and treatment of HIV. HIV/STD/Hepatitis Prevention Section Supervisor Judy Nielsen says there are approximately 630 people living in Montana with HIV.

“In general, Montana is a low incident states in terms of HIV compared to the rest of the nation,” said Nielsen. “We have been that way since the mid 80’s, always. Generally, we average between 20 and 30 cases. We have been a slow as nine and as high as 31. Right now, we are averaging I believe 30 for the year.”

According to Nielsen, being a low incident state can be a barrier because people are not aware that the disease exists.

“Especially with the medicines letting people lead normal quality lives and even to a normal lifespan,” Nielsen said. “It no longer has the advocacy or the attention that it used to, but we are trying to make physicians and the general public aware that the disease is still out there.”

When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, Nielsen says chlamydia is by far the most prevalent in Montana. She says those numbers are closer to 4,000. In terms of rates, Montana is lower for all STDs compared to the rest of the nation.