WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) —This year marks 40 years since the first cases of HIV and AIDS were diagnosed.

Even though many may not hear a lot about HIV, roughly 38 million people are living with the virus which attacks the body’s immune system.

Once a person has HIV, they have it for life. While there’s no effective cure, but there are very effective resources available to manage the virus.

The test is available at Wyoming Valley AIDS Council and if someone is diagnosed with HIV, they’ll find more than medication there.

Braden Beamer is one of five medical case management coordinators at Wyoming Valley AIDS Council. He alone oversees 60 HIV/AIDS patients.

“It’s pretty accessible with all the resources that we have and it makes it a little bit easier to get connected,” said Beamer.

Mental Health Therapist Matt Semanision has worked at Wyoming Valley Aids Council for 14 years and has seen services expand.

“It’s comprehensive because HIV just doesn’t affect your health, right? It affects everything else. It affects your mental and spiritual makeup,” Semanision explained.

HIV/AIDS presents unique challenges to a patient. It’s why the agency educates them about the virus and how to live with it.

“Life skills, life teaching, group therapy, individual therapy, I do every day. You know, a lot of those things. It’s a one-stop-shop for people to come to,” Semanision said.

Affording thousands of dollars in medication, not to mention all of the services here, may seem like an obstacle that can’t be overcome.

That’s where United Way of Wyoming Valley steps in with Northeast Pennsylvania Regional HIV Services. It helps cover prohibitive costs, preserve patient anonymity and break down barriers of the stigma that might prevent someone from seeking help.

“I don’t think people realize how many of our community members are impacted by HIV. And the whole point of the work that we do is to really support our clients, their partners, and their families and really reassure them that HIV is not a death sentence and you can live your best life and we’re here to help you do that,” explained Miriam Bakewell, Program Director, United Way of Wyoming Valley.

The state has designated United Way of Wyoming Valley to offer HIV/AIDS services in a six-county northeast region.

United Way is also part of the initiative ‘Take Control HIV Community’.