BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health plans to launch a board focused on HIV prevention and care later this summer as part of a goal to end the viral epidemic by 2030.

The department announced Thursday, June 10, it will form an HIV panel with a diverse group of community members and stakeholders, including those living with HIV. The board will contribute to a 2023-27 plan for eliminating the virus in the U.S., according to a news release.

The department's Division of Sexually Transmitted and Bloodborne Diseases will also hold a virtual town hall conversation to introduce the board to the public and solicit feedback about mitigating HIV at 4:30 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, June 22.

In 2017, fewer than 40 North Dakotans were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, the life-threatening disease caused by HIV, per the department. Black residents and gay males were far more likely to receive a diagnosis, according to the data. The disease is primarily spread through unprotected sex and contaminated needles.

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, the United Nations estimates that nearly 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide.