News 12 at 11 o'clock / Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's a disease with a stigma, but people who have it know it doesn't discriminate.
One local house is here to help. Their specialty is recuperating those who are positive for HIV.
Interim Executive Director Judy Pugh recalls a conversation she had with some of the people who live there.
“I said, 'If there was one thing you'd want people to know, you could say to people, what would it be?' And one of the residents of the house said, 'Don’t be afraid of us,'" Pugh said.
St. Stephen’s Ministry is a place where people who are positive for HIV come when they have nowhere else to go.
“This room right here was the room I used to reside in in 2008,” said former resident Sylvia Hill.
When Hill was first diagnosed 20 years ago, she said this was her first thought: ”I was gonna die. Tomorrow.”
Then, she found St. Stephen's.
“I entered into here to help me gain that self-esteem in order to get my foundation,” Hill explained.
“We're not just a roof over a person's head, we're a program. We will provide a roof and a very nice one, but we also provide support,” Pugh said.
Hill describes it as “a home away from home.”
A new statistic from the CDC shows 60 percent of youth with HIV don't even know they're infected.
But at St. Stephen’s, these people are not just a number.
“Had I not had a child, I would be like some other people of the world and not know, because I’ve never had any other symptoms. I have never been sick,” Hill said.
So, people around the community are working to educate and inform.
People gathered at Paine College to walk for awareness.
“Our theme is getting to zero. Zero infections, zero new cases, zero transmissions,” said Augusta World Aids Day Committee Chairman Ken Bonds Jr.
They're also working to break the stereotype.
“It is no longer a gay man's disease,” Pugh explained.
She says the fastest growing population is married women, and no one is exempt.
“It is a disease that touches all of us regardless of race, regardless of income. It's not a poor person’s disease. It is not a street disease,” Pugh said.