HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – Each year, December 1 is recognized as “World AIDS Day.” A Tri-State group, Matthew 25, held a public candlelight vigil at the Henderson County Public Library to honor those affected by HIV/AIDS.
“When I started at Matthew 25 in 1996 we went to a lot of funerals,” said Cyndee Burton. “A lot of funerals that nobody was there except us.”
More than 36 million people worldwide have lost their lives because of AIDS. And more than one million Americans are currently living with the disease. To recognize World AIDS Day, people gathered to honor those who have died, but also to celebrate those who continue to survive the disease everyday.
“To know that we have all of these people that really care and support our cause and the work that we do and to come out and honor these people. It really means a lot,” said Rachel Trout
Matthew 25 is an AIDS service headquartered in Henderson that helps people through physical, medical and emotional care.
“Our focus is just to help these people that are suffering from this illness live a thriving and healthy life.”
Everyone at the vigil joined together for a prayer, and the names of everyone who were treated at Matthew 25 and lost their fight with AIDS were read among the crowd.
“When I read those names, I can put faces with most every one of them, cause I’ve done this for so long,” said Cyndee Burton. “And it just means something to me that we’re still lifting their name.”
Burton said unlike in the early 1990s, people with HIV are able to take a daily pill that keeps the virus suppressed so low that it isn’t detected in their blood.
“We can even use that same pill to give to people who are engaging in risky behavior to prevent them from getting HIV,” said Burton.
Burton and Trout say the most important thing they can encourage is getting tested regularly and learning about prevention.
“We just want to help them in the best way that we can and to also raise awareness and prevention for this illness to let people know to really be aware and not stigmatize this community so much and hope that we can put an end to this at some point,” said Trout.
To learn more about Matthew 25 and their services, click here.