1st Annual National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Sunday. 23/8/2017

Published by ABC2NEWS

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - There are more than 30,000 people living with HIV in Maryland. Baltimore remains one of the nation's cities with the highest rates of AIDS. 

In order to raise awareness about prevention and early detection, advocates are using a different platform to spread the word. 

"When I found out I was HIV positive my first reaction was oh God please let me live long enough to see my kids graduate," said Gail Graham.

She was diagnosed in April 1997. While the years have passed, some painful memories are still fresh.

"I dealt with the stigma, so called friends didn't want to be associated with me, didn't want me to come to their homes and if I did they have me use paper plates," she said.

Graham has dedicated her life to advocacy. She’s with faith based groups in the community to help others living with HIV.

"We're not asking the churches to say yes it's okay to have sex," she said. "We're asking them to deal with the reality and the reality is Baltimore is still No. 10 with high rates of HIV and AIDS and it's due to a lack of education."

Places like Hope Springs are working to raise that awareness. The community organization is bringing people together through programs like "Hope Springs Café.”  Volunteers work inside local HIV clinics serving coffee and oatmeal while offering support to people who are HIV positive coming for their daily dose of medication.
       
"One out of 43 people in Baltimore are dealing with HIV," said Hope Springs co-director of Faith Community Outreach Robert Bullock said.

They're involving the religious community to help those living with the disease. Sunday Aug. 27 they'll host a National Faith HIV and AIDS Awareness Day with a prayer walk, a rally, and a health fair with opportunities for testing.

"We're excited about this and it's about the awareness and it's about participation, not just for one day Kelly but participation every single day," Bullock said.

And that's what Graham is praying for. She's lived long enough for her sons to be grown and to have a 10-year-old grandson. She wants others to have the same support.

"It's very important that we take this seriously because if we don't then we will never get rid of a disease that's 100 percent preventable," Graham said.

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