BANGOR, Maine — Today is World AIDS Day, a day for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS by urging them to show support for people living with the disease and remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses.
In 2020, nearly 38 million people were living with HIV around the world, according to the World Health Organization. This includes 1,600 Maine residents.
In 2019, 29 new cases of HIV were reported in Maine, Governor Janet Mills said at the time.
Organizations across the state took time Wednesday to commemorate World AIDS Day.
Health Equity Alliance is hosting an event at the Bangor Arts Exchange Ballroom from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
At the event, there will be a free hot cocoa bar, free HIV take-home tests, and sexual health and wellness resources. Folks who stop by are encouraged to write supportive messages of hope for those living with HIV/AIDS.
“Issues like stigma and access to appropriate health care have always been struggles for the communities living with HIV and AIDS," said Health Equity Alliance communications coordinator Jill Henderson. "We want to remind people that this is an ongoing commitment that we need to make to these folks. This is something [that's not] in the past, it’s here with us today and we want them to be taken care of now, and in the future.”
More information about the Health Equity Alliance event in Bangor can be found here.
The Frannie Peabody Center will also commemorate World AIDS Day with a candlelight vigil outside Coffee By Design’s headquarters at 1 Diamond St. in Portland. Guests are invited to arrive at 5 p.m.
Katie Rutherford is executive director of the Frannie Peabody Center. She told NEWS CENTER Maine the world had made great progress in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It's been 40 years since the first cases were reported in the United States.
“We’re at a much different place now in terms of our prevention strategies," added Rutherford. "We have pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which is a daily pill to protect against HIV infection, but it’s really important to remember that without access to those treatments and the resources people are aware of, [HIV] can still be a death sentence.”
More details on the Frannie Peabody Center's World AIDS Day event can be found here.
Mills on Wednesday signed a proclamation declaring Dec. 1, 2021, as World AIDS Day in Maine. In a statement, she said:
“On this World AIDS Day, let us remember those who lost their lives to AIDS and honor and support those living with and affected by HIV, including the more than 1,600 people here in Maine. Those who live with HIV are often our friends, family, and neighbors. Together, let us rededicate ourselves to raising awareness to fight HIV, prevent its spread, and, ultimately, end the epidemic.”