Aids Vigil held in Tampa by Mitch E. Perry

12/01/06

Today is World AIDS Day….In Tampa, the Hillsborough County Department of Health provided free AIDS tests throughout the day.

Last night, despite a burst of rain, about 70 people gathered in Tampa’s Lykes Gaslight Square park last night for a candlelight vigil. The event kicked off Hillsborough County’s observation of World AIDS Day, held in cities around the world today. (roll tape#1 o.q.�)

A 2006 report on AIDS by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization says that nearly 40 million people are living with HIV today, but the majority are unaware of their HIV positive status. Ninety-five percent of those live in developing countries. The total number of people infected in the United States is small by comparison - about 1.2 million.

Pat Gilliam works at Hillsborough County’s Specialty Care Center . She said that one thing that the medical community has learned since AIDS cases first began being diagnosed is NOT to give medicine immediately to those who turn up HIV positive (roll tape#2 o.q.�maladies that people might have�)

Steve Huard is the Public Information office for the Hillsborough County Health Department. He said the face of AIDS has changed in recent years (roll tape#3 o.q.� HIV occurance in women�)

At last night’s event, entertainment was provided by a man who only wanted to be identified by his first name of Nathan. A singer as a well as an advocate for AIDS education, Nathan performed last night to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS over the past 25 years. He goes to the specialty clinic for services offered by the Hillsborough County Health Department (roll tape#4 o.q. “we still need a cure�)

Don Curdica is the Administrative director for HIV Services for Tampa General Hospital. He also represents USF and the Hillsborough County Health Department, as the 3 organizations have come together to form an HIV treatment program at the Specialty care center that he says is one of the largest HIV clinics on Florida’s west Coast. The organization serves over 15,000 people and provides a variety services to anyone regardless of their ability to pay (roll tape#5 o.q.� to pay for it�)

) Pat Gilliam from the Hillsborough County Specialty Care Center says its been important for those in her field to ‘de-stigmatize’ any negative associations one might conjure up with taking a test for HIV. And for those whose behavior might be considered ‘high risk’, it’s crucial (roll tape#6 o.q. “ every year�)

Due to illness, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was unable to attend last night’s ceremonies. A representative from the city of Tampa, Fred Hearns, told those in attendance that anyone who has been denied housing, a job, or been turned away for public accommodations due to their HIV status should call the city to report such discrimination.

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