For 24 years December first has marked a day to remember those with HIV and honor those who battle the virus. World AIDS day is being recognized around the globe today- and also around Columbia.
by Molly Balkenbush (Columbia, MO.)
The MU student center and Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education joined forces this afternoon and offered free HIV Testing. Dustin Hampton, an HIV Health Educator for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, says it’s important for people to get tested because one-in-five people living with HIV do not know they have the virus. There is a candlelight vigil tonight in honor of World Aids day. Hampton says the vigil is a powerful event for everybody-not just those living with the virus.
“It’s also an awareness for people that are not HIV positive, the people who may be at risk for HIV, about taking personal responsibility and doing things to keep oneself safer,” Hampton said.
Hampton says events like the candlelight vigil are good opportunities to help bring HIV awareness the community. He says although today is World AIDS day, precaution should always be taken.
“We are offering free HIV testing today but we offer it every day in the community. RAIN does free HIV testing every day. You can come in during walk in appointment hours at the health department get a free HIV test. There are lots of other places aside from your doctor where you can go to find out your status,” Hampton said.
The candlelight vigil will take place at five tonight at the intersection of College and Broadway in downtown Columbia.
Note: An earlier version of this story identified Dustin Hampton as an MU Health Educator. He is an HIV Health Educator for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.