Around the world, on Dec. 1, people raised awareness about HIV and AIDS in honor of World AIDS Day and to show support for those living with the disease and in remembrance of those who have died.
“It don’t dictate who I am, I’ve put it in its place,” said Marvene Edwards, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1987. “We’re celebrating the overcoming, the new meds, the longevity of living with this and putting it in its place; and, for me, there’s a future.”
Locally, there are three groups that work year-round to show support to people living with HIV, giving them a safe space to share their stories and advice.
One of these groups, Positives Empowering Positives, isn’t only advocating for those already living with HIV, but is also advocating for people to get tested and be informed.
“That should be one of the first things you do when you meet somebody,” said Edwards, who is also the president of PEP. “Okay ‘you love me, I love you, hey we’re gonna do-the-do. Well honey, let’s go get tested.'”
Of the more than one million people living with HIV, one out of eight doesn’t know that they’re infected.
In honor of World AIDS Day, the University of Florida’s Mobile Outreach Clinic offered free rapid HIV testing and education on Thursday. In addition, the clinic offers free STD and HIV testing Monday through Friday.
PEP, Let’s Talk About It, and the Gainesville Area AIDS Project, hold gatherings multiple times each month.
“I wouldn’t give it to my worst enemy, but if you’re that person that’s living with it, you don’t have to think that it’s the end,” Edwards said.