Day of Mixed Emotions
Observed on December 1 each year since 1988, World AIDS Day calls us to remember that HIV/AIDS is one of the most destructive epidemics in history. More than 25 million people died from the virus between 1981 and 2007. Additionally, it is estimated that 33.3 million people are living today with HIV disease. The Delaware Division of Public Health recently reported that 5,515 Delawareans have been diagnosed with HIV infection since the epidemic began. Today there are 3,738 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Delaware. Of these, 728 live in Sussex County, and 450 of them are classified as being AIDS Defined, with severely compromised immune systems.
These numbers are overwhelming, but they also are a source of hope. The number of people living with HIV is greater than it has ever been, thanks to medical advances in the treatment of HIV infection. People are living longer with HIV, and living with a better quality of life. In the past two years, HIV/AIDS researchers have even dared to use the word “cure” in their discussions of medical advances. It is no longer a question of if a cure for HIV/AIDS will be found, but when.
Mourning those persons lost to HIV/AIDS, all the while hoping for a cure for those living with the disease, is a bittersweet mix of emotions. Being with others makes it easier to experience. Fortunately there are a number of community events being held in Sussex County this year to commemorate World AIDS Day. They all serve an important function: to remind the public that HIV has not gone away—there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. All events are free, and all events are being held on Saturday, December 1 (unless otherwise noted):
Seaford: Kent Sussex Counseling Services is hosting a World AIDS Day service at the Stein Highway Church of God (425 East Stein Highway), beginning at 12 noon. Elliot McNeil will be the guest speaker, and the program will include a Praise Dance, a Releasing of Balloons Ceremony, as well as the Reading of Names of those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. Light refreshments will be served afterwards. For more information, contact Haley Truitt at 302-387-5495 or Harriet Williams-Glover at 302-535-1983.
Georgetown: In collaboration with Beebe Hospital, La Red Health Center will be participating in this year’s annual Winter Health Fair at Iglesia Betel Church (310 South Railroad Avenue). The Health Fair runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and La Red will be providing health screenings and HIV testing that day. Starting at 1 p.m., there will be a special program featuring a guest speaker from the medical field to discuss HIV awareness, health, and safety. To support those living with AIDS, and to honor those who have passed, volunteers will be reading the names of those who have died from AIDS. For more information, contact Angel Rivera at 302-236-0514.
Milford: “Getting to Zero: Zero New Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths” is the theme for the event being held at Faith, Hope and Love Christian Fellowship (218 North Rehoboth Boulevard). Starting at 10 a.m., the service provides an opportunity for people from the community to speak about medical, social and spiritual resources they have to assist people living with HIV/AIDS. Special music during the service will be provided by The Kaays. Participants will be given an opportunity to acknowledge their loved ones who have died from HIV/AIDS. People are being asked to bring non-perishable food items, toiletries, and household supplies that will be donated to the “Food 4 Friends Food Bank.” This event is being put on collaboratively by the Delaware Division of Public Health, Food 4 Friends, Kent Sussex County Counseling, and Women Empowerment Destiny (WED). For more information, contact Judy Nelson at 302-424-7136.
Rehoboth Beach: Epworth United Methodist Church (19285 Holland Glade Road) is displaying four sections of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in its sanctuary. The AIDS Quilt is the largest piece of folk art in the world, measuring more than 1,293,300 square feet in size and weighing more than 54 tons. Currently the Quilt contains more than 91,000 names of people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. This small portion of the Quilt is available for viewing during business hours and during most evenings and weekends from November 16-December 2. For information, contact Ken Mahan at 302-227-7743, ext 101.
Rehoboth Beach: CAMP Rehoboth is hosting a World AIDS Day art exhibit in their Community Center (37 Baltimore Avenue).The artwork reflects the experience of living in a world with AIDS and our communal response to it. A reception for the art exhibit will be held in the Community Center on Saturday, December 1, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The artwork will remain on display at the Community Center through mid-December and is available for viewing during business hours. For information, contact Salvatore Seeley at (302) 227-5620.
Rehoboth Beach: For the nineteenth year, Rehoboth Beach will be the site for a community-wide observance of World AIDS Day, organized by AIDS Delaware, All Saints’ Church, CAMP Rehoboth, Epworth United Methodist Church and the Delaware HIV Consortium. People are asked to gather at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand at 6:15 p.m. A Candlelight March through the downtown area begins at 6:30 p.m. The March ends at All Saints’ Church (18 Olive Avenue) for the annual “Service of Remembrance and Hope” that will begin at 7 p.m. The theme of this year’s service is “I am My Brother’s Brother, I am My Sister’s Sister” and it emphasizes our connection to each other and to people living with HIV disease. This service is seen by many as the most moving and inspiring part of Rehoboth Beach’s World AIDS Day activities. It is a careful blending of the Spoken Word and the Sung Word. The Spoken Word is the “Reading of the Names,” a ceremonial reading of the names of persons who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS. The current list has been carried forward from the earliest World AIDS Day events in Rehoboth Beach, and additional names are added each year. The Sung Word will be provided by the CAMP Chorus and others. The service concludes with a light supper in the All Saints’ Fellowship Hall.