Dec. 1, 2005 HIV/AIDS is a modern day leprosy, the Rev. Lillette George said at a candlelight vigil and church service held Thursday at Nazareth Lutheran Church on St. John. The event, attended by about 50 people, was sponsored by Helping Others in a Positive Environment Inc., usually referred to as HOPE, to observe World AIDS Day.
George, who serves as pastor at Emmaus and Bethany Moravian Churches, said that the Caribbean is ranked only behind sub-Saharan Africa when it comes to HIV/AIDS cases.
"AIDS is coming home. We can't pretend anymore," she said.
Fenzy Callwood, a former Health Department HIV/AIDS worker, said most people who get HIV/AIDS are under age 25. He said they usually die by the time they're 35.
He said there are 862 people across the territory living with HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Marilyn J. Nutter, who is the medical director, internist and HIV provider at St. Thomas' East End Medical Center, said the HIV virus is currently most commonly transmitted by heterosexual sex.
As the participants lit red candles in memory of those who have died or are living with the disease, several spoke about how their lives were touched by family and friends who died of AIDS.
"And we remember the many who are widowed or orphaned," Rev. Hugh Chapman said.
The Rev. Charles Crespo spoke of two childhood friends, Edwin and Joe, who were suffering from the disease.
"Their wives have already passed away," he said.
Later, during the church service, Nutter talked about the influence her brother had on her work. Nutter said her brother died of the disease in 1998.
She said she works to make sure HIV/AIDS patients keep their appointments at the clinic.
Harold Wallace, the administrator at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, said that since August 2004, 120 people have been tested for HIV/AIDS at the health center.
Ivy Moses, HOPE chief executive officer, said HOPE offers testing two days a week at Myrah Keating Smith.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards called for more HIV/AIDS education to help prevent the spread of this disease.
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