FAYETTEVILLE, Ark, (KNWA) — Northwest Arkansas Equality celebrated World’s AIDS Day with its Annual Drag Brunch at the Fayetteville town center. The organization is also offering a week of free HIV testing in honor of the day.
Carol Christoffel is one of 130 people who attended the brunch. “I came to Northwest Arkansas in 1985. That’s when AIDS started hitting across the country and I started understanding more about the crisis.” Christoffel said she became passionate about ending the HIV-AIDS epidemic after losing loved ones to the virus.
“Seeing first-hand people I knew dying from AIDS, children dying from AIDS and so it’s always been really close to my heart,” said Christoffel.
According to the CDC, in 2015, 258 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in Arkansas. Reginald Moore with ARcare Special Services said with the right medication people can live a long time with the virus. ”It’s not a death sentence anymore, it’s a virus that lives within the body that can be controlled.” Moore is urging people to get tested at least once a year.
“I don’t care if you’re a child, an adult or an elderly person. People need to be tested. Everybody needs to know what their status is,” said Moore.
Starting Monday, NWA Equality is expanding its hours and offering free HIV testing through Thursday. Monica Jannati with NWA Equality said “It’s a pretty quick test process. It’s a quick finger prick and it takes probably 2-minutes and then you know your results right then and there.”
World AIDS Day was first recognized in 1988 and it’s the first-ever global health day.
Many of the guests at the brunch had a red ribbon pinned to their shirts in support of those living with HIV-AIDS and to remember those who have passed away.
“There’s been a lot of work done with AIDS where people are living with AIDS versus dying from it,” said Christoffel.
More than $5000 was raised at the brunch which will support the testing and education efforts of NWA Equality.