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AIDS walk raises money, awareness

AIDS walk
May. 06, 2013 @ 06:36 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Testing positive for HIV and AIDS can be devastating in many ways -- not only affecting a person's health and outlook, but punching a hole right through their pocketbook.

That's where groups like the Tri-State AIDS Task Force come in, to help community members with HIV through support groups and by assisting them in paying their bills during trying years of their lives.

Raising awareness about their plight -- and funds to fill the task force's coffers -- were the reasons behind the 14th annual AIDS walk Sunday in Ritter Park. Despite the chilly, damp weather, supporters of the cause united at the park Sunday for a picnic and leisurely walk to show support for their friends, family members and neighbors.

Being diagnosed with AIDS and HIV -- "It's not a death sentence anymore," said Michael Lohri, support group leader for the task force. "Anymore, people are living longer and longer lives, but people are still testing positive, and we have to be there to support them."

There are about 350 people with HIV in Cabell County, about 120 of whom are served by the task force, said Lisa Cremeans, executive director of the task force, which targets those who have financial needs.

The organization receives no local, state or federal funding to offset client service expenditures, such as medication co-pays, rental security deposits, dental assistance and food and utility assistance.

Fortunately, all patients qualify for some program that helps pay for medication itself, which can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 per month, Cremeans said.

Other good news is that, with improvements in medication and care, people can live both longer and fuller lives, Lohri said.

"I've been positive for 15 years, and others have been positive since the mid-80s," he said. "They're called long-term non-progressors. People are living long, normal lives, as long as they take their medication, eat right, sleep right and don't do drugs."

The support group meets at 6 p.m. every Wednesday at 1038 6th Ave. For more information, call 304-522-4357.

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