About 50 people stood at the corner of Trade and Tryon Sts. in Uptown Charlotte on Dec. 1 to commemorate World AIDS Day with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, House of Mercy and other concerned organizations.

Lonnie Green, HIV positive for over 23 years, sang as names of those who died of AIDS in our region were read. Stan Patterson, House of Mercy president, read the names of men and women who died at House of Mercy — a nonprofit residence in Belmont providing a community and specialized care for low-income persons living with advanced AIDS.

The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988. The day’s 2009 theme was “Universal Access and Human Rights.”

World AIDS Day is an important reminder that HIV has not gone away and that leadership and action are needed now to lead the way to a humane response to AIDS.

The number of newly identified cases of HIV/AIDS continues to grow. Worldwide, there are now 33 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. The number of people living with HIV disease in the U.S. is over 1.1 million, including more than 468,000 with AIDS. Of those living with HIV disease, 21 percent (over 231,000 persons in the U.S.) are unaware of their status.

The South has the greatest number of people estimated to be living with AIDS, as well as the most AIDS deaths and new AIDS diagnoses. At the end of 2007, the N.C. Division of Public Health estimated 33,000 North Carolinians were living with HIV or AIDS.

— Report courtesy Marjorie Storch