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AIDS victims remembered

December 01, 1997

AIDS victims remembered

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

Some people feel public awareness of AIDS has improved, but the tragedy it wreaks remains constant, leaving children without parents and destroying marriages. That was the message of a candlelight vigil in Hagerstown on Monday night in recognition of World AIDS Day.

Anthony Henson is only 17, and he has already lost his mother and 2-year-old brother to AIDS.

Henson said his brother died in 1993 after contracting the disease from his mother, who died this year.

Henson stood alongside Lovell Beann of Hagerstown, who said he has lost about five friends to AIDS.

A recovering alcohol and drug abuser, Bean had himself tested because he was worried his past habits could have caused him to become infected.

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"I had a lot of fear before I had the courage to be tested," said Henson, whose test turned out negative.

Patricia Stubbs broke off pieces of a Christmas cookie as she remembered her husband who died two years ago of AIDS.

"I can't talk about it. I miss him," said Stubbs.

Stubbs, Henson and Bean were part of a group of local residents who came to North Hagerstown High School Monday night for World AIDS Day observances. Events and ceremonies are held around the world during the day to increase the understanding of the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

In Hagerstown, more than 50 people holding candles marched from the Washington County Health Department to North Hagerstown High School to remember those who have died of AIDS.

The Maryland AIDS Administration says 104 AIDS cases have been diagnosed in Washington County since the disease was recognized in 1981, but Trish Miller and others say the numbers are higher.

The 104 cases are only those that have been reported to health officials, said Miller, a Department of Social Services worker who coordinates services for HIV and AIDS patients. It does not include those residents who move out of the area, or those who get private testing, said Miller.

Health officials, friends of AIDS victims and others cupped their hands around their candles on a cold, blustery night as Miller began leading the group to the high school.

"We hope to show the world that even though they are no longer with us, their memory lives on," said Miller said of AIDS victims.

At the high school, people talked with agencies offering help for AIDS victims and viewed sections of a memorial quilt that represents people across the country that have died of AIDS. In the auditorium, dancers and students put on peformances with AIDS themes.

Tina Caniford handed out literature about her church, The New Light Metropolitan Community Church, which is geared toward lesbian and gay members.

Caniford said the West Church Street church was started because gays and lesbians "are starving for religion" and most mainstream churches do not want them.

"I think a lot of people are in denial," said Caniford.

Caniford's church opened its doors two years ago and has about 52 members. "We never have a problem with people showing up," said Caniford.

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