Springfield, MO – “The first three months are a bit of a blur, ” said Robin Rees, whose husband was diagnosed with Aids in 1997.
“It was so scary,” she said. “There was a lot less knowledge than there is today,
He contracted the virus through a blood transfusion as a child before the CDC started testing blood for HIV. They decided it woudn’t be a secret.
“Some people decide to keep it private and that is 100 percent OK. Other deide to make it public and that is also 100 percent OK,” she siad. “Our is public, and we really want to use it for education, we want to use it for encouragement.”
Robin and her youngest daughter, Molly, participated in the 23rd Annual Aids walk Saturday put on by the Aids Partnership of the Ozarks. Every year organizers say more than 100 participate in the walk.
This year, APO invited Alison Arngrim from Little House on the Prairie as their grand marshal.
“It’s not like on the big red carpet list of thigns to do apparently, but I said ‘I’ll be happy to come, it’s Missouri, it’s Little House on the Prairie Land,” she said.
She has been an advocate for 30 years.
“Back in the 80’s we were certain there would be cure by the 90’s,” she said.
Although there is no cure yet, much progress has been made.
“I think the medications that are life saving and that are life prolonging have made HIV and Aids more of a chronic disease and people don’t think about it as much,” said Lynn Meyerkord, executive director of APO.
But she says it’s still a big deal and prevention starts by talking about it..
“People that smoke sometimes get lung cancer. People who eat too many twinkies have high cholesterol and are at risk for heart disease. People that are involved in drug use and unsafe sex are at risk for HIV,” she said.
APO serves 29 counties. More than 950 people in their service area are living with HIV or Aids. And more than a hundred don’t know they have it.
For those impacted, breaking down the stigma is the most challening part.
“When I come across people who still have the stigma attached to it, and make jokes about it, I’m just amazed that we still hear those things 20 years later from his diagnosis,” said Rees.