SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The memory of Springfield residents whose lives were cut short by HIV AIDS were honored today at Springfield’s South Congregational Church.

This is world HIV AIDS day, symbolically noted at noon during December 1 ceremonies throughout the world. At South Congregational Church a World AIDS Day service has been held each year since the inaugural service in the 1970s. Those who’ve been in the forefront of Western Massachusetts’ battle against the disease were there Thursday.

“HIV is still alive and prevalent in our community. And while we’re emerging from another pandemic HIV was the pandemic that preceded COVID-19,” said Richard Johnson, New North Citizens Council Health Director.

It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV, and commemorate those who have died. Globally, there are about a million people who have the virus.

According to CDC, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS-related illnesses, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Getting tested is the only way to find out if you have HIV.

A world aids day flag was raised at Springfield city hall Thursday, showing support for people living with HIV AIDS and remembering those who died from AIDS related illnesses.

Mayor Domenic Sarno and Springfield’s Health and Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton Harris helped do the honors raising the World AIDS Day Flag at City Hall.
Since the 1980s world AIDS day observances have spanned the globe.

“Honoring those who we lost from HIV, and honoring those we can prevent from contracting HIV,” said Johnson.

Johnson making certain that families of people living with HIV know they have the full support of Springfield’s health agencies behind them.

“I want to make sure that we mark this day how far we’ve come but there’s more to be done,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

The noon hour flagraising was preceded by a program inside city hall. The noon hour held a special significance for those still struggling to find a cure for HIV AIDS. A ceremony that health commissioner Harris said dates back to 1980’s.

If you are living with HIV, starting treatment early means you can live a full, healthy, and productive life.