Mid-South churches helping to raise AIDS awareness

(WMC-TV) - On World AIDS Sunday, several Memphis churches stepped up to focus attention on the disease and to help victims understand that there is free help available.

Sunday morning services at St. Andrew AME Church was aimed at honoring members who have died from AIDS and supporting people everywhere who are living with the disease.

Members watched an emotional video of Mid-Southerners who are living with HIV.  The congregation also learned about the free care offered to people who need treatment through the Ryan White Program in Shelby County.

"Our theme for this World AIDS Sunday is know now, live longer," said Rev. Kenneth Robinson.

Robinson, a doctor and Shelby County's public health policy advisor, said he hopes generating awareness about AIDS will help more people see that the number of new cases are rising, especially in the African American community.

"The numbers are devastating in Shelby County," said Robinson.  "Eighty-one percent of the 7,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the county are persons who are African American.  Ninety-one percent of the new cases of HIV among women are African American women."

Church leaders said not enough people are getting tested, and many more are not aware of all the free medical and emotional support available to patients.

"Persons can live very normal lives, and we've seen it in celebrities like Magic Johnson, but that can be possible for every person who is HIV positive," said Robinson.

For more information on HIV/AIDS and where you can get free help, click here, or call 1-877-448-5669.

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