Vigil held to observe AIDS day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2003

A small crowd gathered at Ellwood Community Church Monday night to pay tribute to those who have died from or currently live with the incurable HIV/AIDS virus.

The program was sponsored by Selma AIDS Information and Referral as part of World AIDS Day.

The sanctuary at Ellwood was filled with nearly 30 people who came to sing, pray, and show their support for people who are fighting this deadly epidemic.

Selma AIR volunteer Gregory Anderson gave a brief but touching description of what it is like to live with AIDS. Anderson talked about how he would visit with his 85-year-old neighbor every day for a simple chat.

“One day, my neighbor’s daughter called her and told her I had AIDS,” Anderson said. “The daughter told her mom to make me leave. This 85-year-old woman said ‘Don’t worry about it. Give it to God.'”

Anderson said he learned from this experience that there was no need to feel shame any more. He decided to let everyone know about what happened to him and how it could have been prevented.

“Whether a person accepts me or not, I give it to God,” Anderson said. “I encourage every one of you to keep doing what you’re doing and support finding a cure.”

The Rev. Gary Crum, pastor at Ellwood, called upon those at the program to “take the banner of this task set before us and run with it, not away from it.”

Crum compared HIV/AIDS to weapons of mass destruction, saying the virus was a threat to the United States and it’s people.

“When we look at the statistics, they are very startling,” Crum said. “According to the Center for Disease Control, African-Americans account for 79 percent of total AIDS cases in the U.S.”

People are too afraid to speak of this epidemic, Crum said, adding that he would like to see this community have the courage to acknowledge the problem and get involved.

“We do not care how much you know about this disease, we care about what much you do (to prevent it from spreading),” Crum said.

At the end of the ceremony, the crowd went outside with lighted candles and held a vigil for those who have died from HIV/AIDS.

They then released several red balloons into the chilly night air.

Mel Prince, Executive Director of Selma AIR, said she was really pleased with the turn-out of the event.

“When we first started doing this, we had about six people show up. Now we have tripled that,” Prince said. “I think the whole program went really well.”

The slogan for this year’s World AIDS Day was “Live and let Live,” which focused on eliminating the stigma and discrimination of people who have HIV/AIDS.