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AIDS Network observance and walk scheduled

May 16, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The bad news is that every year, the number of clients the Martinsburg-based AIDS Network assists is growing.

The good news is that AIDS no longer is considered a death sentence and more people are living longer, said Judith Friend, executive director of the organization, which serves clients from Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Last year, 29 new clients became part of the AIDS Network, bringing the total number to 100. That does not include new clients this year, of which Friend said she did not have a tally.

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Several events are planned for this Sunday to raise awareness of both AIDS and the AIDS Network. At 6 p.m. a walk will begin at the corner of King and Queen streets in Martinsburg and proceed to War Memorial Park, where a memorial observance will begin at 7 p.m. At 9 p.m., a female impersonation show will be held at the Holiday Inn.

"Usually people are not interested in anything to do with AIDS," Friend said. Yet the disease knows no barriers - not gender, race, economic or social status, sexual orientation, hometown or occupation.

More than a million people most likely are infected in the country, but many have not been tested and do not know it, Friend said. Hopefully, events like those planned for this weekend will encourage testing, Friend said.

AIDS Network serves those with no insurance, or who are underinsured, Friend said. Eighty percent are from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, half are black and 20 percent are women, Friend said.

None of the organization's clients are teenagers or children; the average patient is between 39 and 50 years old, Friend said. Some clients have been living with the disease for nearly two decades, Friend said.

Clients receive assistance with dental services, housing, transportation and food vouchers. Free clinics are held and in-house counseling is available for mental and substance abuse problems.

"Anything to improve the quality of life," Friend said.

Volunteers always are needed to assist with the organization's newsletter, help with health fairs or perform other tasks, Friend said.

Those wishing more information on services offered or to volunteer may call 1-304-263-0738 or 1-888-955-6535.

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