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World AIDS Day events

All World AIDS Day events at City Hall:

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Presentation of Mayor Andy Berke’s World AIDS Day Proclamation. World AIDS Day tree ornament crafting. Tree on display through Dec. 7.

5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Memorial ceremony. Instrumental music by Robin Burke.

5:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. Candlelight procession to Chattanooga City Council

6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. World AIDS Day Presentation to Chattanooga City Council

6:30 p.m. 8:30 p.m. World AIDS Day Program in the Veranda Room: world premiere of documentary, panel discussion, catering by Virginia College Culinary Arts

The Hunter Museum hosts events Sunday:

12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Chattanooga CARES mobile testing unit onsite; FACING AIDS project and pictures with Dab the AIDS Bear; local AIDS memorial quilts on display.

On Dec. 10 the Delta Sigma Theta Chattanooga Alumnae Chapter hosts a World AIDS Day program from 6 to 8 p.m. at Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church. Elder Jackie Hendricks of Jackson, Tenn., will be the speaker.

All events are free and open to the public.

Mark Grantham's doctor told him to get his affairs in order because he had HIV and six months to live.

That was 31 years ago.

Grantham outlived that doctor and still survives with HIV. Today, the Chattanooga resident plans to celebrate his survival and hopes that friends and family of people with HIV and other HIV survivors celebrate with him.

"We've come so far in tackling the epidemic," he said.

Twenty years ago, Grantham took 82 pills a day to manage HIV. Today, he takes one.

Grantham is featured in POZ — a magazine aimed at people who have tested positive for HIV and AIDS — as one of 100 long-term HIV survivors. He also will be among several participants in a citywide World AIDS Day commemoration today. Several groups in Chattanooga scheduled AIDS awareness events throughout the month.

Local events start at 11 a.m. with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's World AIDS Day proclamation at City Hall, followed by a memorial ceremony and candlelight procession to the Chattanooga City Council. Chattanooga resident Mario Forte is scheduled to make a World AIDS Day presentation to city council. The day ends with a documentary and panel discussion.

Hunter Museum will host AIDS awareness events from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Delta Sigma Theta sorority will host an AIDS awareness program at Orchard Knob Missionary Baptist Church on Dec. 10.

"People worldwide and locally will unite to fight AIDS and HIV and show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those we have lost," said Cory Howard, communications director at Chattanooga Cares.

Some 939 people live with HIV in Hamilton County, according to the Chattanooga Cares website.

The virus infects 1.2 million people in the United States, and 14 percent of them don't know they're infected, according to the site.

World AIDS Day also promotes awareness about HIV and AIDS.

While medical advances help people with HIV and AIDS live longer, they still face a negative stigma and some people may experience isolation, Grantham said.

He dislikes when people refer to themselves as "clean" when they don't have HIV.

"Typically, people with the virus would never use that terminology. " Grantham said. "I might have a virus, but I took a bath, washed my face, brushed my teeth. So yeah I'm clean.

To challenge the stigma some people have about HIV/AIDS. people with the virus will volunteer to walk with their eyes closed and arms outstretched carrying a sign stating that they are HIV Positive and encouraging people they encounter to touch them. The exercise is to see people's response, said Jennifer A. Martin, consortia coordinator for the Southeast Tennessee Development District, which coordinated the local Word AIDS Day events.

Grantham said attention from President Barack Obama has helped decrease the stigma for people with AIDS. Obama committed nearly $50 billion to the U.S. Presidents's Emergency Plan AIDS relief for a worldwide coordinated plan to control the spread of HIV.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

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