WILTON MANORS (CBSMiami) – In Wilton Manors, the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus was marked by hundreds of people walking the streets, carrying candles and quilts in honor of those who died from AIDS and those who live with the disease, a memorial marking World AIDS day.
Karl Harring has been living with AIDS for more than 20 years.
“You get that mindset that you’re no different from anybody else who has cancer or arthritis or anything else,” Harring said. “It’s a mindset that you’re not going to die from it. You gotta learn how to live with it.”
Activists say more people in South Florida are learning to live with AIDS.
“AIDS is still extremely prevalent,” said Denise Spivak. “Broward County is number one in new AIDS cases, new HIV cases in the country right now so it’s about commemorating losses but also raising awareness.”
Activists say Broward is 1st and Miami-Dade is 3rd nationally in new AIDS cases. That led many on the walk to offer a simple piece of wisdom.
“People will live longer (with AIDS),” said Wade Boyles. “It’s very manageable but you still need to practice safe sex. You should still use a condom because you just don’t know.”
Organizers of the walk hope the event will inspire people to remember that AIDS remains a real problem and that many people are still dealing with the effects of the disease.
“Hopefully nights like tonight will remind people to protect themselves,” said Terry DeCarlo, of Broward House, the county’s oldest and largest HIV/AIDS community service organization. “We don’t want to have to do this anymore. I don’t want to have do this anymore.”
Nearly every person in the crowd Thursday has been affected by AIDS — either by contracting the illness or being close with those have. Performer Margaret Cho — who served as Grand Marshal for the event — said her life and the lives of countless others have touched by the disease. She wants to see AIDS eradicated.
“There needs to be education out there,” Cho said. “There needs to be an awareness that is is a problem. We had a lot of that in the 80′s and 90′s and there needs to be more now then ever.”
With each hand held high and each photo honoring a victim, organizers believe a message is getting across — to be safe.
“If this tonight can get one person to save one life, then we’ve done our job,” DeCarlo said.