Locals raise AIDS awareness

Published 6:32 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

Part one of a series

Since 1988, Dec. 1 has been recognized as World AIDS Day—a day to raise awareness for the disease and honor the lives of those who’ve lost their battle to the disease.
As has for the past 12 years, the Beaufort County HIV/AIDS task force will join the worldwide celebration with a candlelight vigil, a free meal, information about the disease and, most important, confidential and free HIV testing, according to Melinda Moore, a member of the task force and one of the organizers of the event.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s something we do to try to involve the community, the whole county and even surrounding counties because we feel like this is such a worthy cause,” Moore said.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. The virus attacks the immune system, impeding the body’s ability to fight off illness. HIV is contracted primarily through unprotected sexual activity with an infected person, blood, especially through intravenous drug use in which needles are shared with an infected person. Babies can even be infected by infected mothers during birth or breastfeeding.
This is why, Moore said, people should get tested and know their HIV status. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1 million Americans have HIV and 20 percent don’t know it. And those 20 percent can unknowingly infect others.
“It can affect any age, race, any person. It’s important to know your status,” said Megan Price, health education specialist with the Beaufort County Health Department.
Moore said the stigma associated with HIV is what can prevent people from participating in the event, or even getting tested for HIV. To that end, various health resources will offer HIV/AIDS information to the community at today’s event, in addition to Metropolitan Community Health Service providing free and confidential HIV testing.
The World Aids Day celebration will take place from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. today at Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church, 102 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Washington.
For more on World AIDS Day, see a Closer Look in Sunday’s edition of the Washington Daily News.