STAMFORD, Conn. — Clergy and faithful of several religions gathered together in a Stamford church for a common cause Tuesday evening.
Wearing red ribbons in awareness of AIDS, they took their seats in the pews of the warmly lit sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church on Cross Road.
“We are here to recommit ourselves (to meet) year after year until there is a cure for HIV and AIDS,” the Rev. Douglas McArthur, chairman of AIDS Interfaith Stamford and the host clergy, said in his opening remarks. Dec. 1 is marked as World AIDS Day to bring awareness to the disease.
HIV and AIDS continues to permeate the lives of those in the community, McArthur said.
“HIV and AIDS are still a major health issue,” he said, adding that it is important to get tested.
It’s hard even now to mention HIV and AIDS without generating an emotional response, McArthur said. So many lives are so many are touched by the disease, he said.
Evidence of the disease’s reach was sewn into several quilts that lined the walls of the sanctuary. Each bore a design created by families and friends of those afflicted by HIV/AIDS.
One had an American flag and an anchor. Another incorporated the design of a musical staff.
The service featured several prayers and songs. Community performing arts groups, including The Madrigals of Stamford High School and The Locust Preparatory Company performed a song.
Clergy and choirs from several houses of worship also sang, including Rabbi Shaul Praver and Beth Styles, Cantor Magda Fishman and The First United Methodist Church Chancel Choir.
AIDS and HIV touches communities across the state. From 2009 to 2013, 1,732 cases were diagnosed in the state, according to data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
In Stamford, 15 cases were diagnosed in 2013, the most recent year of data available. From 1981 to 2013, 512 individuals lived in Stamford with the HIV infection.
Earlier in the day, employees from the City of Stamford Health Department offered friendly advice and supplies for safe sex in the Government Center lobby.
The department routinely offers HIV testing through an oral swab.
While no cure for HIV exists, it can be controlled with proper medical care, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
If the disease is diagnosed early enough, those who start taking medicine can live to a healthy age, according to the department.
But “the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested,” according to the department.
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