CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — Some groups in our region celebrated World AIDS Day using the opportunity to raise awareness and offer testing among other things. It was a day of remembrance but also an opportunity to work toward solutions.

At Covenant House, groups worked together to offer fast and easy testing to encourage people to “know their status” as the area deals with a growing HIV infection rate that has grabbed national attention.

“I think it is important that we talk about it and keep an open mind about the realities of it as HIV grows in the community,” said Ellen Allen with Covenant House. “The quicker that we can wrap our arms around this and contain it and provide support, the better off we’ll be.”

They also had education and counseling services on site as well as incentives like shirts and a catered lunch. Those involved say breaking the stigma is important.

“I think that the word is slowly getting out to people that HIV is on the rise in our area and they need to be able to know their status not only to protect themselves but other people,” said Christine Teague, with the CAMC Ryan White HIV Program. “I think that as we get the word out people will come. They are getting more accustomed to having regular testing done because it is so simple and quick.”

Across town, there was an emotional ribbon cutting ceremony for a new syringe disposal box. Women’s Health Center of West Virginia and SOAR WV worked together to install the container as a way to encourage some of those who are most at risk to be safe.

“I’m hopeful that they’ll read the positive messages, the notes of gratitude on this box that Jamie Miller painted and use the box and hopefully curb the spread of HIV in our community,” said Katie Quinonez, with Women’s Health Center WV.