INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday is World AIDS Day.
This year’s theme is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.”
“He’s not forgotten. I mean, he was a beautiful man. He was funny, he was a great educator, and he was really a great mentor," Todd Fuqua said, remembering his friend and mentor Phillip Carey.
Fuqua is 54 years old, the same age Carey was when he died of AIDS-related complications in 1994.
“I actually was on an international business trip when he passed away and I flew home for his funeral. I’ve been looking for his quilt. I was down in Bloomington at the quilt," he said.
After years of searching, he finally got to see it with his own eyes.
The Marion County Public Health Department joined other community organizations to mark the occasion on Thursday.
“We’re here to commemorate people who have been affected by HIV — both those individuals who have passed and those who are currently living and thriving with HIV," Director of the Ryan White HIV Services Program Michael Butler said.
His organization works to reduce barriers for individuals to learn their HIV status and get into care.
As of September 2022, there are 5,330 people living with HIV in Marion County, with an estimated 797 additional people who do not know they are living with the virus.
One of those people is Johnny Jones, who’s been living with the virus for 17 years.
“Don’t demonize this virus, like it’s a death sentence or something nasty, or make people feel like they’re unclean for having it," Jones said.
HIV/AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was.
Jones says many people are unaware that undetectable equals untransmissible, or U=U.
That’s when those living with HIV who are consistently on HIV medication and virally suppressed cannot transmit HIV sexually.
“Take your medicine and you’re gonna live a happy, healthy life," Jones said.
Marion County is one of more than 50 local jurisdictions working on the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.
The goal of the plan is to reduce HIV transmissions by 90 percent by the year 2030.