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AIDS memorial service held in Martinsburg

May 20, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Chaplain Rick Mann told about 30 people at an AIDS memorial service Sunday that he understands the pain people and their families go through when a diagnosis of AIDS is made.

Mann works at Charles Town Races to help workers there deal with drug and alcohol abuse and other problems.

This year, Mann said he worked closely with a woman associated with the track who died of AIDS.

Mann said he met with the woman regularly as the disease progressed.

"It was quite an experience," Mann told the gathering at the 19th AIDS Memorial observance at War Memorial Park.

But Mann said people need to keep in mind that whatever problems confront them in life, there is hope.

If people bring God into their life, they will move into another realm after their life is over, despite the problems they faced while alive, Mann said.

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"I think the thing we need to remember is we have this world, and then we have eternity," said Mann, speaking from inside a pavilion at the park.

More than 400,000 people died of AIDS in the United States in 2000, and the disease continues to pose an increasing threat to the country's population, said Judith Friend, executive director of the AIDS Network in Martinsburg.

Last year, 40,000 people were infected with the disease, 44,000 were infected this year and 47,000 are predicted to be infected next year, Friend said.

AIDS is now the leading cause of death among blacks ages 25 to 44, said Friend.

"We're in a battle and we're losing," she said.

About 125 people in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties have AIDS and about 10 people in those counties die from the disease each year, said Friend.

The AIDS Network provides outreach medical services to about 80 AIDS patients from Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

The 30 people who attended the memorial exchanged words, poems, songs and prayers. About two dozen took part in the AIDS Memorial Walk earlier in the evening that stretched from the corner of King and Queen streets to War Memorial Park.

At the end of the service, each person released a red balloon to symbolize the spirits of those who have died of AIDS.

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