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Territory Comes Together for World AIDS Day

Dec. 1, 2006 — Nearly 40 million adults and children worldwide are infected with the HIV virus, according to statistics from the United Nations. Every eight seconds someone is infected with the deadly virus, while each day another 8,000 people die from the disease.
During a candlelight vigil on St. Croix held to commemorate World Aids Day, keynote speaker and Health Commissioner Darlene A. Carty noted that 903 people territorywide are living with HIV. This year's theme is "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise," and it's the second year that UNAIDS have used the theme to urge government officials to keep their promises of funding HIV/AIDS research projects so that the epidemic can be minimized, if not stopped altogether.
"It is very important for us to be vigilant in our fight to stop this disease," Carty said to the audience of more than 100 people. "We at DOH [Department of Health] are very concerned, and we urge you to take advantage of free testing so that we can 'Stop AIDS. Keep the promise.'"
Carty said that when people know their status, it helps in the fight against spreading the disease.
Nationwide and across the territory, the day was remembered with moments of silence, prayers, songs, and poetry. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, during remarks at UN headquarters in New York, said that AIDS was "the greatest challenge of our generation."
He urged the international community to continue to "fight to bring the global AIDS epidemic under control."
In the St. Thomas-St. John district, residents gathered at Emancipation Garden, where the day was celebrated in song and with speeches. UVI professor and keynote speaker Dr. Malik Sekou said that religious leaders must take a larger role in helping the fight against the spread of AIDS.
Sekou told those in attendance that religious leaders should not just preach abstinence but also monogamy in relationships. Sekou also urged females to get tested and to use condoms if they suspect their husbands or boyfriends are not monogamous.
On St. Croix Friday night, a group of men, women and children, donning T-shirts emblazoned with this year's theme, marched silently from Christiansted's waterfront to Times Square, where a small crowd had begun to gather to await the ceremony. For over an hour, people listened to guest speakers — including Carty and VICARE Executive Director Bruce Smail — who delivered poignant messages in between songs of praise, prayers and poetry reading.
The march was among a series of events collaborated by the Health Department, VICARE, the St. Croix Foundation, HOPE Inc., American Red Cross, The Balm in Gilead, Inc. and Frederiksted Health Care Inc.
A VICARE-sponsored walkathon, from Estate Mahogany Road to Lawaetz Museum, is scheduled for Saturday beginning at 7 a.m.
Smail said to the crowd gathered in front of Twin City Caf

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