World AIDS Day: Local health expert explains the importance of being tested, UNCW displays a remembrance quilt

World AIDS Day: Local health expert explains the importance of being tested; UNCW displays a remembrance quilt
Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 10:15 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The world pauses every December 1st to mark World AIDS Day, raising awareness of the disease and to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS.

Seven squares, made from family, friends and neighbors, line UNCW’s Cultural Arts Building to honor the lives lost to HIV and AIDS.

“It’s a way of unifying people together to address loss and a way to address the stigma against those with HIV and AIDS,” said UNCW Associate Professor of Anthropology Michaela Howells.

“HIV does not discriminate who it attacks, in regards to religion, race, ethnicity or gender- anyone can be affected by it, ” said HIV/STD Health Educator with the New Hanover County Health Department, Matthew McVey.

Once a person is infected with HIV, they have it for life, there is no cure. Since it is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person, testing is vital to prevention.

“It’s really important to make sure that you’re having those regular testing with your provider, that way you’re keeping you and your partners safe from contracting HIV,” said McVey.

The stigma surrounding AIDS and negative attitudes about people living with the disease is why experts say people are hesitant to get tested.

“There is a negative stigma associated with AIDS and that is something that we need to be working on as a community to overturn,” said McVey.

While the virus has killed tens of millions around the world since the 1980s, treatments are now allowing millions more to live with HIV today.

The UNCW AIDS Memorial Quilt is used as a wake-up call to end the HIV/AIDS stigma. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you have HIV or AIDS, being someone who is living with the disease that does not make you less of a person,” said McVey.

For more information about New Hanover County Health and Human Services’ free ongoing HIV/STD testing opportunities, you can visit Health.NHCgov.com.