During a Sunday ceremony, 200 names were read to remember Alaskans lost to the disease.
ANCHORAGE – Sharron Johnson was 14 years old the first time she heard the word “AIDS,” and until six months ago, she’d never met anyone who had the disease.
“I was one of those people that was just ignorant of the disease,” Johnson said. “I was like, oh you can’t shake anyone’s hand, you can’t use the restroom after them, you can’t do anything because you don’t know.”
Now, she said, her eyes are open to the truth: People all around her are sick.
“We’re still fighting HIV. There’s still not a cure,” Johnson said. “There are still people and families that are infected by the disease every day.”
As the new director of development with the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, or Four As, she’s working to prevent the virus from spreading. She said her work has changed her life.
“Let’s remove the stigma and start educating people and making them aware,” she said. “It’s OK to be HIV positive and to be friends with them and work with them, because they are no different than anybody else.”
To mark the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day Sunday, 200 names were read to commemorate Alaskans lost to the infection. Johnson said it’s a chance to come together and get the word out: get tested.
“Find out what your status is,” she said. “That’s the best way we can prevent the spread of disease.”