World AIDS Day: Woman's Mistake Now Her Mission

AIDS education the focus of annual observance


By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- One in four people living with HIV doesn't know it and could be spreading it to others. A Midlands woman knows very well about the disease and she's on a mission to make sure she educates and enlightens others.

"I found out in March 1995 that I was HIV positive."

Francenia Hopkins told herself she would die with that secret. Having the disease that causes AIDS really did, almost, kill her, until she made a decision to live.

"I had so many friends to die in silence because. They didn't have the chance to live the way I'm living today," said Hopkins.

Part of her living is speaking life to others, educating them on a disease that consistently puts South Carolina in the Top 10.

Executive Director of Palmetto Aids Life Support Services, or PALSS, Carmen Julious makes sure AIDS awareness and education are on people's minds.

"Currently, South Carolina ranks 8th in the nation for rates of HIV/AIDS," said Julious. "Columbia, South Carolina has been designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a hot spot because of our rates of HIV."

PALSS hosted the annual candle lighting ceremony and remembrance at the State House this week, and the education summit Francenia facilitated opened the minds of many. It's a constant battle both women say they are willing to keep fighting if it means the spread of HIV/AIDS becomes no more.

"There is hope."

Free HIV testing is available all over the Midlands. Results are available within 10 minutes. For more information, call 803-779-7257 or 1-800-922-7319.

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