By Eli Goldfarb
MONTICELLO December 1 was the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, a day observed worldwide in order to raise awareness of the disease and methods of prevention for those who don’t have it, and ways of caring for the illness for those who do.
Though the spread and death rates have slowed, AIDS and HIV are still a large problem in world. In the Hudson Valley region alone, around 8,400 people have the disease, and another 1,900 more don’t know they have it. Fortunately, there are many groups and organizations that help people with AIDS and HIV so they can live longer, healthier lives.
This year, Hudson River Health Care in Monticello marked the day by gathering members of the community who are HIV positive speak up and tell about their experiences dealing with the illness.
Speakers included members of the Hudson River Health Care team and the AIDS Task Force of Sullivan County a group that helps people with HIV and AIDS take care of themselves and help pay for some medications and individuals in the community, such as Essie Davis, who came to let people know how to take care of themselves with HIV.
The event was also held in order to help reduce the prejudices that persons with HIV and AIDS have to deal with.
“The sad thing is that some people still don’t understand the disease,” said Manny Medina, one of the people in attendance at the event.
According to the speakers, those with HIV and AIDS are viewed with considerable prejudices because of the lack of information, and the preconceptions most people have about the disease. This issue is an important one that is also being addressed on World AIDS Day, and every other day.
The UPWORDS website, which will launch December 12, hopes to help reduce, and eventually eliminate, such prejudices. The website takes the practice of the AIDS Quilt (a quilt containing parts of a person’s life after passing because of AIDS), and turning it into a “Living Quilt,” featuring videos and interviews with people that have HIV and AIDS. The hope of this website is to help others with the disease be more forward with it, and to help others learn about the disease and the problems that those who have it go through. The website will be found at www.upwordsvoices.org after its launch on December 12.
“I’m concerned about the community,” said Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins, who came to show his support for World AIDS Day, “We want to help stop the spread of AIDS.”
All members of the community are encouraged to help do this in any way they can, doing things from donating money to organizations such as the AIDS Task Force, to those who are HIV positive coming forward and help eliminate prejudices, to simply learning about the disease and how to deal with it.