NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - In support of World AIDS Day, more than 200 people came together Monday at Riverfront Park in North Charleston.
Topher Larkin chairs the Charleston World AIDS Day committee that organized the vigil.
"This is a worldwide event. It affects every community possible. People think that it happens in different countries, or it's not affecting them at all, but here, it's happening right in the Lowcountry."
There are 15,000 people living with HIV in South Carolina. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, more than 500 new cases are diagnosed each year. Larkin says the need for education and preventive health continues to grow.
"I have older people who think that you can get it by hugging someone or by mosquitoes," says Larkin. "Those misconceptions are still out there, so it's a constant reminder of these events and these organizations and getting tested."
Twenty-six-year-old Michael Davis tested positive almost three years ago. He says he took to social media to share his diagnosis.
"I have seen and heard people speak downward or negatively about people with HIV, but me, myself, I haven't experienced any negative feelings. I made it very clear that if you had an issue with it, it's your issue."
Davis says, while advancements in treatment have made the disease manageable, the stigma associated with AIDS hasn't diminished.
"What we can do with our lives to make it easier for everyone involved as far as testing yourself and helping people who are positive feel comfortable to live their lives openly."