EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Across the globe on Saturday, people are remembering victims and honoring those living with AIDS as part of World AIDS Day. In Eugene, advocates are stepping up, saying the community needs now more than ever to continue fighting the disease.
Local HIV and AIDS advocates say over the last decade, the disease has fallen off the public radar, but it continues to be a problem affecting and taking thousands of lives.
A couple dozen AIDS advocates met today at Eugene's Bijou Theatre"on Saturday, December 1, for a local World AIDS Day event.
About one million people are living with AIDS in the United States today. 20 percent don’t even know they have the disease. The Oregon Health Authority says more than 300 people have AIDS in Lane County and more than 5,000 Oregonians have been diagnosed.
AIDS is completely preventable. However, advocates say there's a lack of vigilance about it today. Local advocates say they’re seeing a new generation of kids growing up who aren’t being careful, who don’t know about AIDS and in that case, are at high risk for contracting the disease.
"I think it's incumbent upon all of us, especially all of us who lived through those deaths, to make sure this doesn't happen again. Two out of five infections in people are under 29 in this country, so there's things that the system can do and things that individuals can do,” says Diane Lang, Executive Director of HIV Alliance.
Lang says one of the things the community needs to step up is encouraging their sexually-active friends to get tested for AIDS. Lang says that’s particularly true in the gay community.
David Hall is one of the many Americans living with AIDS. Hall says it’s important to stay vigilant with the disease. Hall says he agrees with a recent statement by President Obama about the disease.
“He said, 'Jf we're not strong enough to wear the ribbon and issue on your sleeves 365 days out of year then we're not really being leaders and fair to the next generation of leaders',” says David Hall.
Locally, the HIV Alliance is trying to educate younger generations about HIV and AIDS by speaking to local classrooms and groups. It is also looking to do more prevention programs as much of Oregon’s state funding for those programs has been cut. 29 of Oregon's 36 counties get absolutely no public dollars to HIV and AIDS prevention programs.
If you’d like to help the Alliance, you can find out more on their website: http://www.hivalliance.org/