Hattiesburg community commemorates World Aids Day

Hattiesburg community commemorates World Aids Day

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the City of Hattiesburg

The 29th Annual Observance of World AIDS Day is December 1, 2016.  This years' theme is "The time is NOW."  In honor of this day organizations throughout Mississippi will be having remembrance events and opportunities for free HIV testing.  "As a clinic that works with HIV+ clients each day, our staff acknowledges daily the impact that HIV has on our clients.  This one day can start a conversation, an important one, about stigma associated with this illness and about being safe," says Tonya Green, Director of Social Services for the Southeast MS Rural Health Initiative, which sponsors the local Ryan White Clinic which serves almost 900 HIV+ clients annually.

In Hattiesburg, although it is best to make an appointment, walk in HIV testing means that people who want to be tested do not need to make an appointment. The Southeast MS Rural Health Initiative (66 Old Airport Road, 601-582-2619) and the AIDS Services Coalition (103 Broad Street, Suite B, 601-329-2425) will be providing testing. Goodies such as t-shirts will be available.  Other activities include:

Displays of the National HIV/AIDS Memorial Quilt – This year, the AIDS Services Coalition, with community partners like Delta Sigma Theta sorority, University Baptist Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Mt Olive Baptist and Trinity Episcopal Church, will display panels from the National Memorial Quilt from the NAMES Project.  This living art project provides names, faces and lives to those who have lost their battles with HIV/AIDS over the length of this pandemic. The AIDS Services Coalition website, www.ascms.org , and its Facebook Page, Asc Hattiesburg, have all information about locations and times of displays.

AIDS Services Coalition Annual Walk/Run for Life –For the 16th year, the AIDS Services Coalition will sponsor its Walk for Life, which helps us remember those lost to this illness and celebrate those who are living with HIV/AIDS.  This advocacy walk/timed run will take place on Saturday, December 3th, beginning at the Kamper Park Tennis Pavilion in Hattiesburg and proceed down Hardy Street to increase visibility of this illness that is still ravaging our state. For information on participating in the Walk, go to the AIDS Services Coalition website, www.ascms.org .  Running groups will receive a discount and swag bag.

A Service of Remembrance and Healing – Each year, Trinity Episcopal Church hosts a Service of Remembrance and Healing. Participants are encouraged to remember those lost to HIV and to celebrate the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS.  "This beautiful service allows all of us to stop for a moment and reflect on HIV and its impact on individuals, families, and our community, while seeking renewed strength," said The Reverend Dr. Susan Hrostowski. The "Ladies in Red", Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, will host a World AIDS Day reception following the service.

A few statistics paint an image of how HIV is impacting our country and, more specifically, our state.  Every 9 ½ minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.  The CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States.  One in eight of those people is unaware of his or her infection. Young adults aged 20-24 have the highest annual diagnosis rate and account for the largest percentage of all new cases. Mississippi ranks number one in the US in the rate of infection for those ages 13-24. Increased knowledge of the disease and improved diagnostic and treatment methods have led to significant advances in the clinical management of HIV and a delay in the progression from HIV to AIDS, and thus, individuals receiving treatment in the U.S. are living longer.  This is why getting people into treatment is critical to stemming this illness.

"World AIDS Day is a time for reflection with a look toward a future free on HIV/AIDS.  This is our vision," said Kathy Garner, Executive Director of the AIDS Services Coalition. Beginning in 2002, the mission of the AIDS Services Coalition (ASC) is to provide housing, case management, and HIV education/prevention to those persons living with HIV/AIDS and those affected by HIV/AIDS.   The AIDS Services Coalition draws many groups together to increase awareness and provide an opportunity for the community to become better informed about HIV—truths and myths.  For more information about the AIDS Services Coalition, call 601-450-4286 or go to www.ascms.org.