By Coshandra Dillard
East Texas Cares Resource Center, an organization charged with helping people living with HIV and AIDS, hosted its annual event Thursday to commemorate World AIDS Day. A brief speech by East Texas Cares Resource Center’s executive director, Jeanette Calhoun, PhD, coincided with the City of Tyler’s Rosa Parks Day celebration, with both set at St. James CME Church.
East Texas is not immune to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Data shows that some counties here, including Smith County, are among the top 25 counties with the highest number of HIV cases, highest HIV case rates, or highest AIDS case numbers and rates.
“We can’t stop talking about HIV because it’s still relevant,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun led a red balloon release to symbolize the lives lost to the virus.
“This is something we’ve done for years,” she said. “We do this—the release of balloons—to remember those who have lost the battle to HIV and AIDS.”
Calhoun is optimistic that a new vaccine recently introduced in South Africa will block the HIV virus from attaching to healthy human cells. Results from the vaccine test will become available in about four years.
“Hopefully, it will be successful, and come 2020, we won’t have to worry about this horrific virus and this horrific disease anymore.”
Meanwhile, Calhoun said there needs to be more people lending their voices to advocate for people living with HIV and educating the community about the risks of contracted the disease, including the church.