By Whitney Grunder - email
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - People around the world are observing World AIDS Day, as they pay homage to those who have lost their lives to the virus and those who are still fighting, waiting for the day when there is a cure.
But experts say that due to modern medicine, and research on the virus, people living with HIV and with aids can live much longer. Today is also about educating people about the virus.
World AIDS Day is not only about paying homage to those that have lost their lives to AIDS, caused by HIV, but it's also about creating awareness.
"It only takes one time to get infected with HIV. You don't have to be promiscuous. You don't have to be a sex worker. You don't have to be somebody out on the streets," said Aundrill Henderson, prevention specialist at Health Horizon of East Texas.
Health Horizon of East Texas isn't wasting any time and they have one important message to send.
"It's about respecting yourself and knowing your status and getting tested," said Henderson.
Free rapid tests were offered to SFA students and roughly 100 were expected to show up. They say it's nothing to be ashamed of.
"Yes it's very important because your life is precious. You have only one life to live so live it," SFA student Brittanie Bell said.
"I do think it's a positive thing just to be safe. Better to be safe than sorry," said Chauncey Best of NAACP.
Experts say there are more than nine million people in the United States alone affected by HIV.
And thousands that don't know they have the virus. Laura Sanchez is one woman living with HIV and AIDS, who contracted HIV from her spouse, only to find out two years after they separated.
"It's very important you never know, I mean you can get it from your spouse. You can get it from anywhere," Laura Sanchez said.
And sometimes you have no symptoms.
"I didn't know I was sick. I felt fine," said Sanchez.
Making it all the more important to get tested.
"Catching it early on, that's when people can live long productive lives," said Sanchez.
Experts say if you do contract HIV, with exercise, healthy eating, and medication, you can live for years. Which is all the more reason to protect yourself and get tested.
Experts say, the earlier the virus is detected, the better a person's outcome. HIV can only be contracted through body fluids, and that you can't get it simply from basic human interaction.