World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is a global health event held annually on December 1. The event offers an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for those living with HIV/AIDS and to commemorate those who have died.

According to Althea Daniels, HIV prevention manager, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. This year marks the 30th anniversary and South Health District’s Infectious Disease (ID) program hopes to increase awareness and participation to mark the date.

In collaboration with Valdosta State University, the ID program will host a World AIDS Day event on Friday, November 30 from 11:30 am – 1 pm at VSU in the University Center, Cypress Room. Cass Marie Downing, HIV Activist and Advocate, will be the guest speaker, sharing her past struggle with drug addiction and HIV diagnosis. Downing was diagnosed with HIV during a time when deaths from AIDS had reached an all-time high.

“Stigma, discrimination and fear did not stop Cass from living,” says Daniels. “She chose to fight back by becoming an advocate for HIV/AIDS through community work and HIV/AIDS Resource Centers. We are thrilled to have her as our guest speaker during the 30th anniversary event.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV today, and only 1 in 7 know it. Young people are the most likely to be unaware of their infection. Among people aged 13-24 with HIV, an estimated 51% don’t know it.

To empower more people of knowing their HIV status, all county health departments in South Georgia (Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner) will provide free HIV testing on Thursday, November 29. No appointment is needed, and all facilities are open from 8 am to 5 pm.

Free HIV testing will also be held following the event on Friday at Valdosta State University from 1-2 pm in the University Center, Rose Room. Lunch will be provided during the event; however, those interested in attending must register first by calling 229-245-8711, extension 288 or 303. Online registration is also available at