LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Decades ago being diagnosed with AIDS was essentially a death sentence.
Many people lost their battles with the disease and couldn’t even receive the help they deserved. Even now, there is no cure for the disease and it carries a stigma that shouldn’t exist.
With all that in mind, people across the globe and here in Mid-Michigan took the time today to celebrate “World AIDS Day”.
It was a somber gathering as people came together at the Unity Spiritual Center in Lansing to remember those lives lost to HIV and AIDS.
“It’s also a way to bring recognition to the fact that the epidemic is still here,” said Todd Heywood, HIV Activist and Policy Director for the Michigan Coalition for HIV Health & Safety.
For the past nine years, Heywood has battled HIV… a disease once known as a life-shattering virus…
“The diagnosis was one of the most overwhelmingly…painful and powerful experiences in my life,” Heywood stated.
Heywood says he felt numb when first diagnosed but soon found light at the end of what felt like a dark tunnel…
“At the end of the day, I have a virus but I’m taking care of it,” Heywood added.
HIV and AIDS often times carries a stigma with it…causing people to fear the unimaginable and tonight, Heywood and many others took a stance to show it’s possible to survive it.
“I understand the fear…you can live with this disease now, that was not the case when I lost my own partner 20 years ago,” said Jacob Distel, Executive Director for the Lansing Area AIDS Network.
“We literally could end within 5 to 10 years this entire epidemic if everybody got tested, those who were positive got on medications, and those who were at risk but were HIV negative took prep,” Heywood stated.
Tonight’s event was a time to transform loss and heartbreak, into hope and healing.
“Hope always overcomes fear and that there is absolutely hope today that we can, we will and we are overcoming this epidemic,” said Heywood.
Candles…lit in memory of those who died from the disease, and a moment of silence…to portray a loud and clear message…
If you would like more information on the Lansing Area AIDS Network and the services it provides, you can head to our “Seen on 6” tab on our website.