World AIDS Day helps spread awareness about the disease

Tuesday is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to show support for people living with HIV/AIDS and remember those who have died.

Part of the original AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display, part of a program put on by the Aunt Rita Foundation to promote public awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Kit Kloeckl is the current executive director of the foundation and says on World AIDS Day, we should focus on the disease and realize that is still remains a looming threat to many people.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, it is estimated that three to four thousand people in Arizona have HIV and don’t know about it.

“I was diagnosed with AIDS in 2005,” Kloeckl said. “And it was following that diagnosis that I decided to get involved with Aunt Rita’s Foundation and try to make a difference in other people’s lives, it certainly was too late for me too change my diagnosis but if we could get people to get tested, and to prevent HIV/AIDS in others, that’s really what my goal is all about.”

There are 700 new infections of HIV a year in Arizona. The most affected group is aged 18 to 24.

Skip O’Neil, one of the original co-founders of the Aunt Rita’s Foundation, said that he came across many people in Arizona in need of help who had nowhere else to go.

“I had a little boy that I took care of,” O’Neil said. “He was one of the first kids in Arizona that tested positive. His family were hemophiliacs and they got transmitted through needle sharing, from needles, and they had no income at all. With the funds we had we helped pay the rent, buy them groceries, give them a place to live.”

People can view the AIDS quilts through Wednesday at the Parson Center for Health and Wellness. Donations collected go to Aunt Rita’s Foundation.