ANDERSON, Ind. — World AIDS Day turned into a service for faith and information in Anderson on Monday.
About 15 people attended a prayer service and candlelight vigil to honor those affected by HIV/AIDS, at St. Mary’s Church of Anderson. Two attendees also decided to share their stories of battling the virus in a panel discussion.
The service, which was held in partnership with Aspire Indiana and Madison County Health Department, had fewer people than past years but, Kellie Kelley, health department spokeswoman, said that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“It was considerably smaller than in past years but I did appreciate the intimacy,” Kelley said.
That intimate setting allowed Alexandria Glaize, 22, to ask the panel multiple questions about how to offer support to friends who have HIV and how to encourage others to get tested.
“You would think they’d want to know,” one panel member, who wished to remain unidentified, said. “I was in a relationship with someone who had it and didn’t tell me. I didn’t know until I was literally on my death bed.”
Glaize said she has friends in Uganda who have recently found out they are HIV positive.
“It’s hard because I’m here so you have that distance as a barrier,” she said. “It’s hard to be a support system and you feel helpless.”
Other friends of hers who live in Uganda, though, refuse to get tested.
“Not knowing your status is not the same as being negative,” Julie Foltz, HIV program manager for Aspire Indiana, said.
Foltz said Madison County is in the top 10 counties in Indiana for HIV, was one of the first counties to offer HIV screening, has had more than 250 people with the virus die and hundreds more are still fighting.
One audience member spoke up to say it’s important to treat people diagnosed with HIV equally and the same as everyone else.
People prayed for those with the disease during the service. Those who have lost loved ones took turns to talk about them during the candlelight vigil. Anderson resident Emily Carter listed some of her friends’ names.
“My husband and I have been coming since (the service) started years ago,” she said. “We lost several friends to it and we come here for the prayer and hope.”
Carter said she’s seen the turnout decrease since the AIDS crisis first caught the public’s attention in the 1980s. Kelley said the sense of urgency doesn’t seem as strong as it once was.
“There needs to be a second wave of awareness,” Kelley said. “What that motivation for this generation will be has yet to be seen.”
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