Nov. 29, 2002 – Organizers of the annual World AIDS Day events on St. Croix are inviting participants to march or run, light candles, get tested and join together for song, prayer and inspiration.
Although World AIDS Day is traditionally observed on Dec. 1, which is Sunday, the island's first observance is on Friday evening — a candlelight march to begin at 6:30 p.m., from the VICARE office on King Street in Christiansted.
An educational outreach fair is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will include free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling.
At last year's AIDS Day observance folks on St. Croix could get free testing for the human immunodeficiency virus for the first time, according to Dorothy James, who chairs the 2002 coordinating committee. And as a result, James, program coordinator for the Women's Personal and Support Network at The Village Inc., says she expects a strong response this year.
"There are people who are still afraid of getting the test," she said, "but now, because of better information, people are making a better effort at coming in and getting tested."
On Sunday, members of St. Croix's Christian, Muslim and other faith communities will gather at Island Center for an interfaith prayer service. "This year, the theme is 'Stigma and Discrimination: Live and Let Live," James said.
With that theme in mind, and because Dec. 1 falls on a Sunday this year, the St Croix AIDS Day organizers decided to recruit members of the clergy to help spread the word. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and Delegate Donna M. Christensen have been invited to address the gathering at Island Center.
The keynote address will be given by Debra Frazier Howzie, president and chief executive of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. The program also will include a short play, "Women Speak Out," a presentation by the Holy Ghost Deliverance Youth Group, "Mime," and special music.
Also on Sunday, the 28th Virgin Islands Half-Marathon will be run on St. Croix, starting and finishing at Salt River. This year, the event has been made a part of the AIDS Day observances. (See "V.I. Half-Marathon doubles as World AIDS Day run:.)
In a release this week, Christian reminded Virgin Islanders that HIV- and AIDS-related illnesses take more lives among males ages 15 to 44 in the Caribbean than any other cause. Two years ago, she said, it was estimated that one in 300 persons was living with HIV/AIDS and that the primary means of transmission in the Virgin Islands was heterosexual contact.
Statistics released this week by the World Health Organization indicate that women now account for about half of all persons infected with the AIDS virus.
"World AIDS Day is an opportunity for us to remember those who have died and to recommit our efforts to ending the scourge of HIV/AIDS in our communities," she said.

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