Locals set to mark World AIDS Day

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BRATTLEBORO — The AIDS Project of Southern Vermont is inviting the public to a World AIDS Day observation Dec. 1 at noon at downtown Brattleboro's River Garden.

"By providing people with information on how HIV is transmitted and encouraging them to get tested, we hope they will have the skills, knowledge and capability to protect themselves from HIV," said AIDS Project executive director Karen Peterson. "There are medications that help you live longer, but if you can avoid getting the disease, it's so much better."

The commemoration of those affected by the virus and those working to combat it will feature a sidewalk candlelight vigil followed by words from the Rev. Dr. Lise Sparrow, speaking about the Guilford Community Church's work in Kaiguchu, Kenya, and music led by the church choir director Peter Amidon.

The Brattleboro-based project — serving more than 80 clients in Bennington and Windham counties — is one of three AIDS service organizations in the state working to balance steady caseloads — about 600 people statewide are living with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes the disease — as the federal government shifts its financial assistance from smaller towns to bigger cities.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, nearly 40 million people have died of AIDS — and now an equal number are living with HIV. That figure is both good and bad news. At least a dozen or more Vermonters, nearly 40,000 Americans and 2 million people worldwide are newly diagnosed annually. But an infection that older generations once feared is now often dismissed as just another sexually transmitted disease.

Local observers of World AIDS Day hope to change that.

More local information is available by calling 802-254-4444 or by visiting www.aidsprojectsouthernvermont.org.

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