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AIDS walk, ceremony try to bring awareness of disease's scope

May 22, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Another AIDS walk provided more gloomy outlooks.

A local organization that provides medical services to AIDS patients held its sixth annual walk through Martinsburg on Sunday to honor those who have died of the disease and to raise awareness of AIDS.

About 21 people walked from the Berkeley County Courthouse to War Memorial Park along Tennessee Avenue.

After arriving at a pavilion where a ceremony was held, the group released balloons that represented 48 local people who have died from AIDS since 1999.

The event marked the 25th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis in the world and the number of people helped by the local AIDS Network has gradually increased.

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When the AIDS Network started in 1999, it offered eight services to 40 clients.

Today, there are more than 20 services being offered to more than 100 clients in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, according to information distributed at Sunday's walk.

"We're no better off in the U.S.," Judith Friend, executive director of the AIDS Network, told those gathered at the park.

There are more than 40,000 new cases in the United States every year and one quarter of the one million people affected in the country don't know the have the disease, according to information distributed at the event.

Friend said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now supporting a proposal that all people be tested for AIDS in an attempt to get a grasp of the disease's spread.

Among those walking in Sunday's event was Chris Baker of Hagerstown.

Baker said he wanted to participate because he thinks youths are disillusioned about AIDS and do not believe it is a threat to them. Baker said youths need to realize that AIDS cannot be managed and it will kill them if they are infected.

"I think it is important that these things happen," Baker said of the walk.

Similar events were expected to occur around the world Sunday. Each year, memorials take place in more than 4,500 communities and in more than 93 countries, according to the AIDS Network.

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