AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service held in downtown Austin
Austinites who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS are being remembered tonight in downtown Austin at Republic Square Park.
The theme is "Let's keep the light on HIV."
It's the 15th annual and 31st International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Service. In addition to free HIV testing, the names of Austinites who have died from the disease over the past year were read aloud. Representative Elliott Naishtat and Austin city council member Mike Martinez were among the speakers to talk about the disease that's killed more than 35 million people since 1981.
Dr. David Barstow is president of EMPACT Africa. They help pastors in Southern Africa deal with the stigma of HIV and AIDS
"It can be a devastating thing to someone. They can lose a job, they can get kicked out of the family. So it's very, very devastating to individuals but it's also devastating for the epidemic. Because when people are afraid to get tested and afraid to get treated, the disease just spreads faster," Barstow said.
According to the AIDS Candlelight organization there is an estimated 73,000 living with HIV in Texas and around 5,000 here in Austin alone.