AIDS Candlelight Memorial honors those lost - WRBL

AIDS Candlelight Memorial honors those lost

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

The 30th Annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial brought people together to remember those lost to the disease while giving hope to people living with it.

30 years ago the world was introduced to AIDS. Since then 25 million people have died from its complications and 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS today.

For five years Jeremy Hobbs and the Chattahoochee Valley Better Way Foundation have been educating the community about HIV and AIDS. 

Eddie Boone, Jr. found himself working with the organization after he tested HIV positive two and a half years ago. He says living with that knowledge changes everything and he wants to educate people about the virus to eliminate the stigma. "It's no different than having cancer," he says. "Everybody can get anything, and that's what we've got to do, just education."

Just six weeks ago Boone tested HIV negative but he plans to continue his campaign.

Hobbs, who has been living with AIDS for ten years, says a lot has changed since he was first diagnosed. "Back in the 90s people took handfuls of pills three, four times a day," he says. "Now they only have to take one mostly. A lot of the people that come through, one pill a day. That's a huge difference for people."

City councilman Jerry "Pops" Barnes, who is a registered nurse, agrees. He adds that people shouldn't treat HIV/AIDS patients any differently than people who aren't sick.

Barnes says, "The individuals that are suffering, they need to be uplifted. They don't need to be looked down at, and they need to be encouraged and educated, and every last one of us needs to be tested."

Hobbs says the most important part about developing an AIDS-free world is getting tested. Knowing your status can help prevent the spread of the virus. He says, "20% of people living with HIV and AIDS don't even know they have it. It's very important to know your status. A, so you can get better health care. B, so you don't spread the disease."

In the past year 14 people have been effectively cured of AIDS.

The Better Way Foundation offers many services like therapy and support groups to HIV/AIDS patients while also providing free HIV testing. On June 27 the foundation will offer free testing at the Columbus public library.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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