YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Ursuline Sisters have been supporting Valley residents living with HIV/AIDS for years.
Right now, there are 800 people in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties living with HIV. In 2019, an estimated 34,800 new HIV infections occurred in the U.S., according to hiv.gov.
The Ursuline Sisters HIV-AIDS Ministry connects those touched by HIV/AIDS with the services and support they need such as medical services, housing, food, children support services and more.
In preparation for Worlds AIDS Day, a Red Ribbon Display has been placed on Federal Square with each representing 10 people in the Valley living with HIV/AIDS.
On World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1, the public is invited to a program scheduled for 4:15 p.m. on Federal Square where Rev. Joseph Boyd with the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown will lead the group in prayer. In addition to other speakers, Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown will also deliver remarks on the work to end HIV and overcome the stigma experienced by those touched by the epidemic.
“Stigma is the biggest threat. People don’t get tested because of the trauma of a diagnosis, but those who take their medications reach an undetectable viral load and lead long, full lives and have children,” said Laura McCulty Stepp, Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry director. “There are lots of myths about this. You can’t get it from hugging, sweat, tears or drinking after someone. It doesn’t work that way.”
As part of Thursday’s program, a “Walk of Remembrance” will be held, leading to Wean Park where a candlelight vigil is scheduled. The Premier Bank Tower Clock, Market Street Bridge and the walkway from Wean Park to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater will be lit in red that day in support of World AIDS Day.
In Trumbull County, a World AIDS Day Observance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Trumbull Art Gallery, 158 N. Park Ave., Courthouse Square in downtown Warren.
Annual infections in the U.S. have been reduced by more than two-thirds since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s, according to CDC.