Austin, Ind. holds first ever World AIDS Day event amid HIV epidemic
It's a small city with a big problem.Austin, Indiana is still dealing with residents testing positive for HIV and the fight continues on a night devoted to worldwide awareness.
AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) -- It's a small city with a big problem.
Austin, Indiana is still dealing with residents testing positive for HIV and the fight continues on a night devoted to worldwide awareness.
Tuesday night was the first time the city has recognized World AIDS Day. City leaders put together a candlelight vigil to honor all of those affected by the disease.
"We've fallen in love with the folks here," said AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Garith Fulham.
His agency is just one of the groups helping Austin deal with its HIV epidemic.
"The folks here have become our brothers and sisters and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, as large as it is and as corporate as we may be and appear, we are people that have lost a lot of folks,” said Fulham in tears. “And this day is an emotional day because it's in memory of all those people we lost."
Tuesday night, city officials held a candlelight vigil outside city hall during the first World AIDS Day event ever held in Austin.
“If you would've told me this event was going to be in Austin, Indiana, I would've said you're crazy," said Representative Terry Goodin who thought he’d be more likely to speak at an event like this in a big city.
Community members wore white scarves that said “End It” and "Dream Big," as they carried candles through downtown.
This spring, Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency after 72 people tested positive by late March.
There are now 181 confirmed cases – a number that's still growing, but at a slower rate than earlier this year.
IV drug use fueled the spread of the disease and a needle exchange is ongoing.
"With this crisis coming on with the numbers expanding like they were I think we were all scared at that time," said Austin Mayor Douglas Campbell.
The candlelight represented lives lost and those who are still dealing with HIV. Those at the vigil say the fight in Austin will continue with treatment and education.
Indiana State Health Officials say earlier in November they also retested about 300 high-risk people who may have had contact with those with HIV, and say those results are expected out soon.
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