South Mississippians mark World Aids Day

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Every nine seconds, someone is infected with the deadly disease.

Monday, people around the world marked the 20 year anniversary of AIDS.

In Biloxi, a small group of people gathered on the Town Green in hopes of raising awareness on the global issue.

"We're asking leaders to lead, empower and deliver the message that we have to eradicate this health crisis," says Amanda Breckenridge with the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force.

Breckenridge says in 2007 more than two million people were infected with HIV. It's an alarming number on a preventable disease.

"Everyone beginning at age 13 through 64 needs to get tested for HIV annually," said Breckenridge.

The South Mississippi Aids Task Force. An organization committed to HIV awareness and prevention.

"I think the stigma is not so much that it's a gay disease, but there is a stigma attached in the South. I think it really has to do with our culture in the South, maybe religious beliefs and lack of education and knowledge," she said.

Harrison County has the second highest number of new HIV cases in the entire state. The South as a whole ranks number one when it comes to people living and dying with AIDS.

"We all need to get angry and get involved and push legislation through, get funding to the south, get it down here where we need it," said Breckenridge.

It's just one reason community activist Brian Pearse also committed to fighting the cause on the coast.

"While treatment for AIDS has become more widespread since 1988, still many do not have access to it," Pearse said.

The disease continues to hit households on a global scale. Last year alone, only 31 percent of those living in impoverished areas received treatment. But these supporters are optimistic that with proper funding and education, South Mississippi can help eradicate the deadly disease.

The South Mississippi AIDS Task Force provides free swab testing. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-385-1214.