South Bend, Ind. December 1 is World AIDS Day and St. Joseph County is doing its part to increase awareness of the infection.
"Now we've identified at least 507 people who are HIV positive in St. Joe County," said Latorya Greene, Prevention Manager of AIDS Ministries/AIDS Assist of North Indiana. That group is leading the charge with a week's worth of events which include an Open House and Candle Lighting Memorial at the organization's South Bend and Elkhart offices.
Locally-owned Urban Swirl participated in a giveback Sunday to help raise money and awareness for prevention.
"You can come in the shop and all you've got to say is you're here for the give back of World AIDS Day," said Brad Harper, Co-owner of Urban Swirl. "And we'll give 20 percent back to their group, so come tomorrow and we can help this group out."
The store's locations are extending the giveback through Monday in the hopes of raising additional money for the growing problem.
"It's still out there and I think this is a good cause to help out," Harper said. "Anything we can do to help out the local community -- we like to do."
St. Joseph County has the third highest rate of infection in the state and Indiana ranks around 24 nationally, Greene said.
"One thing that we are seeing is that it is across the board, so everyone is at risk of becoming infected," said Greene, whose organization helps promote preventative behaviors and offers onsite testing.
The center also provides a 20-minute rapid saliva test for clients who opt out of the traditional blood test.
"That's one of the things we try to get people to understand. There are quicker, faster ways of actually getting your results back," she said. "You can test with your name, without you name... our thing is letting people know what their status is."
She says it's days like World AIDS Day that help to remind people of the need to know.
"We need to actually take time stop and remember that HIV is something that we need to be concerned about," she said. "And not just globally, as far as HIV, but what's going on in our community and in our back yards as well."
Urban Swirl is among many local businesses and restaurants that will be taking part in the give back this week. Harper said the business is always looking for good causes to sponsor and organizations that are interested in partnering up should contact them at 574-485-7910.