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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
TENNESSEE: 'Message of Love': Churches Honor HIV/AIDS Victims
Scott Carroll
November 23, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis) (11.21.11) - Wednesday, November

On Sunday, 2,911 wooden stakes with red ribbons were driven into the ground near the intersection of Poplar and East Parkway in Memphis, and each one represented a Shelby County life claimed by HIV/AIDS since 1985.

Since 2001, members of two nearby congregations, First Baptist Church of Memphis and Greater Lewis Street Missionary Baptist Church, have worked with the HIV/AIDS awareness group Friends For Life to install the markers for World AIDS Day, officially observed Dec. 1. FFL estimates 8,000 Shelby County residents have HIV/AIDS.

"It affects everybody in this community," said FFL Executive Director Kim Daugherty. "We all know someone who is either living with or has died from this pandemic." "Unfortunately, the greatest personal toll on a family and people we see living with HIV today is simply the stigma of living with HIV," Daugherty continued. "Many people continue to not get tested early because they're fearful of the diagnosis they may receive. And after receiving that diagnosis, they don't feel like they can tell their family." CDC estimates that 20 percent of those with HIV/AIDS are undiagnosed.

Greater Lewis Street Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Myron Donald maintains unity is "critical" to diagnosis and treatment.

"Knowledge is power," said Donald. "The more we can increase the knowledge - the more we can understand the disease better, how it impacts us - it increases our ability to send the positive message, to get over the stereotypes and stigmas. From the church perspective, it's a message of love."