Dec. 2, 1003 More than 100 people marched along King Street in Christiansted Monday night to commemorate World Aids Day. The event brought together residents and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations to raise awareness of the disease.
Earlier in the day, 21-year-old Jonathan Pate, an AIDS activist from Orlando, Fla., addressed students at Central High School and the Educational Complex.
Pate was diagnosed as HIV-positive two years ago.
"Stigma and Discrimination" is the theme of the 2003 World AIDS day. Advocates say discrimination still prevents people who are known to have HIV from securing a job or caring for their families and can prevent people from being offered or seeking treatment that could save their lives.
In her opening remarks, Jo Shim, Department of Health HIV Outreach Program Coordinator, said stigma and discrimination are hard to eradicate and outlined some of the things the community can do.
Continue to educate your self and others about HIV/AIDS;
Know your HIV status;
Begin a community dialogue so the community is able to open our hearts to members of our community infected and affected by HIV; and
* Realize that everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of HIV. Talk to family and friends and do not allow the issue to be put aside until the next World Aids Day.
Participants lit candles in memory of those who have died from the condition.
Pate addressed high school students on the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Pate was diagnosed with HIV when he was 19. He said he was lucky because he got treatment fast and now his disease is undetectable.
"People are living longer and healthier lives with proper treatment," he said.
Pate said the students were "very uneducated" about HIV/AIDS. "The students don't talk about it enough," he said. "Knowledge of HIV/AIDS is required for many students to graduate from high school, and in St. Croix more outreach for young people is needed."
Pate was also concerned about the lack of statistical data on youth in the territory. "In Orlando," he said, "the statistical data on the youth population aged 14 to 24 is very up-to-date. In the Virgin Islands no records at all are kept of people in that age group".
Shim said she was very impressed with Pate's presentation in the high schools. "He put a face on the disease," she said. "He stressed the importance of testing and he emphasized to the youth how important it is to protect themselves."
World Aids Day Activities continue throughout the week with a School Art Contest Awards Ceremony and Reception on Wednesday, Dec. 3, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Sunshine Mall. A health fair with free HIV testing and counseling is set for Saturday, Dec. 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the mall.
VICARE's Annual AIDS Walk will be on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. beginning and ending at the Lawaetz Museum on Mahogany Road.
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