More than one million Americans are currently living with the HIV infection.


More than one million Americans liver with the HIV infection. Sunday night, the Knoxville community came together for World AIDS Day, hoping that raising awareness will keep that number from growing.

The organizers of Sunday's event want to communicate the message-- that AIDS does not have to be a death sentence. But they say to stay safe or survive the disease, you have to get tested.

It's a good way for people to have a detailed, light-hearted and open look into HIV and AIDS.

The event themed "Getting to Zero" focused on just that... getting the number of new diagnosis down to zero as well as the death toll.

"We just really want to remind people that HIV is here in our community and people are getting infected. People are dying from it. And it's a preventable disease," said Judy Roitman with the Knox County Health Department.

Among the group in attendance was Larry Frampton. Frampton was a professional bull rider. He contracted HIV in 1989 from his late partner only to watch his partner die of the disease.

"When you have to sit there and watch someone you love die, then it makes you feel like you're next. And then I thought when am I going to die because it didn't take long for this to kill him," said Frampton.

After losing two partners and around 300 friends, Frampton wanted to dedicate his life to educating the public. He has survived more than two decades and endured the impact of the stigma the HIV virus carries. He said the best way to find comfort was within the HIV community.

"At first people didn't want to be around us because they didn't know how you got this. We were kind of treated like lepers. The only company and friends we had were each other," said Frampton.

HIV wasn't Frampton's only the illness that put him face to face with death. In 1998, he was diagnosed with Leukemia, but his strength two years later put his cancer in remission. Now he can focus all of his energy to fighting for the community instead of fighting only for his life.

This event was only one of many this week. The Knoxville World AIDS Day Committee is holding the following:

• Monday, Dec. 2 – Free, confidential HIV screening, Pellissippi State Community College, 10915 Hardin Valley Rd., 10:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., sponsored by Helen Ross McNabb Center and Samaritan Ministry
• Wednesday, Dec. 4 – Free, confidential HIV testing, Carousel II, 1501 White Ave., 10 p.m. -12:00 a.m., sponsored by the Knox County Health Department
• Wednesday, Dec. 4 – Free, confidential HIV testing, The Edge, 7211 Kingston Pike, 10:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., sponsored by Helen Ross McNabb Center
• Thursday, Dec. 5 – Free, confidential HIV testing, XYZ Club, 1215 N. Central St., 10:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m., sponsored by Helen Ross McNabb Center
• Saturday, Dec. 7 – Faithwalk, 1:00 p.m. registration, 2:00 p.m. brief program at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 414 W. Vine Ave. then Walk to First Baptist Church, sponsored by Samaritan Ministry, $25 donation

Sunday's event ended in a candlelight vigil.

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