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World AIDS Day event coming to Orlando theater to spread awareness

aids hiv t cell in blue.jpg
This human T cell (blue) is under attack by HIV (yellow), the virus that causes AIDS. The virus specifically targets T cells, which play a critical role in the body's immune response against bacteria and viruses.

Thursday’s goal is to look back on those who have passed due to the disease, reflect on what progress has been made and provide education to the community that HIV is still a very real threat.

World AIDS Day is Thursday and Central Florida’s Department of Health along with the Central Florida HIV Planning Council are hosting an event to combat the rising numbers of HIV cases in the state.

Florida places second for new HIV cases around the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Within that total, Miami-Dade has the most, ahead of Broward, Orange and Hillsborough. the Florida Department of Health reports. All four have seen increases from 2020 to 2021.

HIV-cases-per-year
Florida Department of Health


That change may be a result of the department’s stronger emphasis on social events like the upcoming World AIDS Day event, said the health department's Central Florida HIV program manager, Kara Williams.

“We’re all coming together to commemorate those who we’ve lost and the progress that we’ve also made in the past 30+ years with dealing with this disease,” Williams said.

*HIV diagnoses by year of diagnosis represent persons whose HIV was diagnosed in that year, regardless of AIDS status at time of diagnosis. HIV and AIDS data are not mutually exclusive and should not be added together.

Thursday’s goal is to look back on those who have passed due to the disease, reflect on what progress has been made and provide education to the community that HIV is still a very real threat.

“It’s really important because we’re able to look back to see what HIV previously looked like and the progress that we’ve made in terms of the medical advances, in terms of the medication that’s available for individuals, and by being able to break stigma within our communities by having open conversations about how to prevent HIV,” she said.

Thursday’s event begins at 6 p.m. at the Shakespeare Theater in Orlando and will honor those who have survived long-term HIV/AIDS. Event coordinators will also have free screenings on-site and will also provide at-home testing kits.

Two different Facebook Live streams will be hosting the event including 100.3 FM Rumba and 104.5 FM The Beat. Williams’ department has worked previously with The Beat’s radio host, Koiya McElroy, to help spread awareness of HIV in Central Florida.

“We have local advocates from our community, who will be in conversation with local DJs to get the word out to get messaging in terms of the importance of knowing one status, and the different prevention options that are available, as well as for those persons with HIV the access that they have in terms of medication,” she said.

For more information, call the Florida AIDS Hotline at 1-800-FLA-AIDS (1-800-352-2437); en Espanol, 1-800-545-SIDA (1-800-545-7423); in Creole, 1-800-AIDS-1011 (1-800-243-7101)


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Joe Mario Pedersen