PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania’s largest AIDS service organization held a celebration at the Arts Ballroom on Saturday night to commemorate 25 years of helping Philadelphians fight the once deadly disease.
ActionAIDS began in 1986, when an AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence. More than two decades and thousands of clients later, the disease and the organization have come a long way.
“In the early days we were really doing hospice work and helping people to die with dignity and making sure they had everything they needed,” said ActionAIDS Executive Director Kevin Burns. “Luckily and thankfully, today it’s a much different scenario.”
Burns said advances in medication and treatment mean people with HIV and AIDS can live a normal life.
Anna Forbes is one of the organization’s founders and award honorees. She’s worked with ActionAIDs since the beginning.
“When I started working with ActionAIDS, we couldn’t find funeral directors who were willing to bury the bodies of people with HIV,” said Forbes. “We couldn’t find dentists who would be willing to provide dental care. People were routinely fired from their jobs.”
Forbes is thankful the social climate surrounding HIV/AIDS has improved over the years:
“Of course there are lots of problems with equal access to services and care for people living with HIV, but it is nothing now, living in this country, like it used to be,” she added.
Kevin Burns, offered this piece of advice: “Know your status. If you are negative, stay negative. If you are positive, get treatment.”
For more information on ActionAIDS or to donate, go to ActionAids.org.
Reported by Cherri Gregg, KYW Newsradio