By Kevin Nix
Legacy Community Health, the largest community health system in southeast Texas, is holding its annual vigil honoring those in Houston lost to HIV/AIDs on Friday, December 1, World AIDS Day. The event will honor the clinic’s roots in Houston’s AIDS crisis of the 1980s and outline next steps the city must take to end the HIV epidemic.
The CDC made national headlines earlier this month by concluding, for the first time, that “[P]eople who take ART [anti-retroviral therapy] daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”
“Our message this year is one of remembrance but also of renewed hope for the future,” said Venita Ray, Legacy’s policy manager and nationally recognized HIV leader. “The CDC’s recent announcement will help reduce the sinister stigma attached to people like me living with HIV. I’m not considered a walking infection.”
The Houston Health Department reports one in 200 residents in Houston/Harris County has an HIV diagnosis.
“HIV remains at epidemic levels here,” added Ray. “All of us – health care providers, policymakers, and the public – must have a sense of urgency to tackle this ongoing public health challenge in Houston.”
Legacy Community Health, the City of Houston, both city and county health departments, and Houston’s HIV leaders launched Texas’ first citywide END HIV Houston campaign last year. END HIV Houston’s goal is to cut all new infections in Houston by 2021. To join the coalition, visit ENDHIVHouston.org.
The World AIDS Day vigil begins at 6pm at Legacy’s flagship location at 1415 California St.