Advocates bring awareness to HIV ahead of World AIDS Day

A candlelight vigil will be held at the Northern Nevada HOPES Campus on Dec. 1.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 4:47 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - It’s been around since the 1980′s, a chronic disease impacting the immune system.

Tomorrow on World AIDs Day, many will remember those they lost to it.

“My mom died at 26 so she didn’t have no time to live out her dreams or anything like that and I tell people that she died because of the stigma,” Andy Feds, a “Keeping it Positive” HIV advocate said.

Feds is a passionate HIV advocate and not just because of his mom. He was born HIV positive.

“When I tell people that I was born positive, they immediately think ‘Oh, he must be gay, or oh, he must be promiscuous or oh, he might be a drug user or he has AIDs’ and it’s like no, I have never had AIDS, I’ve always been interested in women...” Feds said.

Feds says believing HIV affects only a specific group of people is just one of many misconceptions about the disease.

Gus Marquez is the infectious disease program coordinator at Northern Nevada HOPES. He always encourages people to share the right information.

“Educating ourselves, educating our peers, educating our family, our support systems,” Marquez said.

He says unlike in the past, HIV is not a death sentence.

“Medication and treatment has come leaps and bounds in the last 25 to 30 years,” Marquez said.

“There was a time when I was taking 10 pills a day and now, I’m taking two,” Feds said.

Marquez says one of the most important steps to ending the HIV epidemic is getting tested.

HOPES provides free HIV tests and if the results are positive, they partner with patients to find treatment options.

“If you are living with HIV, I always say the first thing to do, especially if you’re recently diagnosed [is] self-love,” Feds said.

“You can’t allow somebody else to love you, if you don’t have that love for yourself.”

Feds practices what he preaches, turning his own story with HIV into a career as an author, standup comic and advocate.

“You know, life can be funny even with HIV,” Feds said with a smile.

In honor of World AIDs Day tomorrow, the HOPES campus is hosting a candlelight vigil from 5 to 6 p.m. to remember those lost to HIV and celebrate the strides forward in preventative care.

Read more about Andy Feds and his book here.