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Community Commemorates World AIDS Day

1.2 million people in the united States are infected with HIV. Sunday was World AIDS Day, a day to remember those who have passed from the disease. But our community celebrated the global health day Monday night.
1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV. Sunday was World AIDS Day, a day to remember those who have passed from the disease. But our community commemorated the global health day Monday night.
50 thousand people become infected with HIV every year and the Mohawk Valley is not exempt from any of these statistics.
Monday night, two brave Central New Yorkers spoke out about their experiences living with, not despite, the virus.
Darren Mason was born and raised in Utica. He was diagnosed with HIV 21 years ago. When he first found out, his mother was the first person who came to mind.
"I knew I had risky behavior and like I said, when I cried, I didn't cry for me I cried for my mom, because like I said, I had already lost a brother and lost an uncle," said Mason.
Which is part of the reason Mason came out to the ACR Health World AIDS event Monday night, to honor his family members who died from the virus. But also to share his story and a message
"You live because of you and you die because of you, it's the choices that you make, and to the people in the community, and in our black churches, we have to address this, it's not taboo, our children are dying because of HIV."
Mason was not the only one courageous enough to share his story. Margaret Mims read a poem expressing her own emotions.
ACR Health representatives say sharing experiences is a powerful and inspirational tool.
"This isn't the end of the road, this can be a new beginning, and I think even Darren said tonight, you know, HIV saved my life or put me on the right road to get to be where I want to be,” says Melissa Swald Camman, Mohawk Valley Development Associate for ACR Health.
Camman also says prevention education is key.
"The best thing they can do is use barrier protection, be conscious of what you're doing and who you're being involved with and their status,” said Camman.
"We have to start educating our youth, our teens, our adults, and get them to understand that HIV does not discriminate," said Jessica Green, Care Manager for ACR Health.
"It’s all in knowing, you know your status, whether you're positive or negative, and you take it from there," says Mason.
The ceremony concluded with a candle lighting and moment of silence to remember family and friends who died from HIV. Everyone at the event wore a red ribbon to symbolize their support.

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