In harmony, members of the community stood on the courthouse steps Friday night and sung together as candle lights flickered in their hands.
The purpose was to bring awareness to a disease that forever changed the lives of millions around the globe. Sampson County HIV/AIDS Task Force (SCHATF) observed World AIDS Day Friday afternoon. Since 1988, the observance is on held on the first day of December each year. It provides communities opportunities to bring attention to the epidemic.
Thomas McLaughlin Jr., chair of the task force, spoke about the theme for 2017: “Increasing Impact Through Transparency, Accountability and Partnership.” He expressed how contracting the virus was a death sentence, but medical advances and awareness is giving people more hope. Supporters are hoping that a cure or vaccine is created one day.
“The United States government leadership and commitment to address HIV/AIDS are a direct reflection of the goodwill, compassion and generosity of the American People,” McLaughlin said.
Another goal is to stop the stigmas and discrimination associated with the disease. This may prevent individuals from receiving the proper treatment or care.
“Believe it or not, HIV has been around for 30-something years and there’s still ignorance and stigma against HIV,” he said. “We hope that you’ll join us (wherever you are around the globe or whatever role you play) to raise awareness and show that you’re taking action.”
McLaughlin ended his remarks by asking everyone to join in on the fight.
A few of the main objectives of the observance are to spread awareness about medical treatments, encourage students to get involved with projects an decrease and assist people effected with AIDS. More than 36 million people are affected worldwide.
During the ceremony, McLaughlin was joined by several members of the task force. Some of the supporters included Mary Brown, SCHATF vice chair; Treasurer Barbara Faison; Juanita German; Courtney Boyette of Eastpointe and Nettie Pernell, who discussed the importance of observing World AIDS Day.
“It is a time to honor those who’ve lost their lives to AIDS and to continue our ongoing commitment to assist those who are living with or at risk,” Pernell said.
In addition to remembering everyone who passed away from the epidemic, she mentioned the importance of supporting others such as caregivers, friends and family members associated with infected people.
“It’s also a time for patients and providers to reflect on how far the management of HIV/AIDS have progressed,” Pernell said.