World AIDS Day takes place Dec. 1 each year ever since its foundation in 1988. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV hasn’t gone away: there’s still a vital need to increase awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education. With the advancement of new pharmaceutical technology for HIV medication and with the advent of pre-exposure prophylaxis our goal of “getting to zero” seems closer as ever.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a pill that a person at risk can take every day to lower the chances of getting HIV. It has little to no side effects, and has proven to be highly effective when used with condoms.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially stated that “undetectable” equals “untransmittable,” meaning that a person living with HIV who is virally suppressed cannot transmit the virus, there’s an urgency for people to take control of their health by the various options that are now available.

People living with HIV should adhere to their medication, and people who are negative should use condoms in conjunction with pre-exposure prophylaxis to reach our goal of zero.

Access Care of Coastal Texas continues this annual observance by hosting a memorial service to commemorate those who have passed away due to an HIV related illness, as well as those who are either directly or indirectly affected by it.

The World AIDS Day committee cordially invites you to join us at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30 as we remember those who are no longer with us. Guest speakers include Pam Froeschner, president of Access Care’s board, Pastor Ed Wolf, of First Presbyterian Church, for invocation and benediction, and Craig Brown, Galveston councilman for District 2, for the proclamation. Candle lighting and a quiet tribute to follow at the group’s Wall of Remembrance, at the corner of 23rd and Winnie streets. Light refreshments will be provided.

Please note that Access Care of Coastal Texas also will be showcasing a quilt panel from the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt starting Nov. 26.

Eduardo Ocampo is a client services specialist at Access Care of Coastal Texas in Galveston.

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