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Philadelphia area honoring lives lost on World AIDS Day

Camden community comes together to show support for World AIDS Day
Camden community comes together to show support for World AIDS Day 01:48

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) -- Thursday marked World AIDS Day which started in 1988 to show support for those living with HIV and to honor the lives lost from the disease.  

This worldwide initiative is hitting close to home for those in Camden, New Jersey.

Throughout the streets of downtown, people could be heard chanting about testing as they came together to support the more than 30 million people around the world with HIV, according to the National Aids Trust. 

"It's a reflection of how far we've come, recognizing who we've lost and supporting those that are still living with the virus on an everyday basis," Cheryl Betteridge with Cooper University Health Care said. 

Betteridge says HIV numbers are rising.  

"It's like we have another pandemic again as well as numbers in Syphilis. So, anytime we can get the opportunity to get the word out we take advantage and that's what we're doing today," Betteridge said. 

Camden first responders along with healthcare professionals joined together for the annual World AIDS Day Walk, which started at the police department and finished at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.  

After the walk, organizers held an interfaith memorial service and a health fair to connect people with free HIV testing and resources in the community.

"This epidemic tends to get lost these days when you're talking about COVID and all of the restrictions," Father Mark Smith of St. Paul's Episcopal Church said. 

Nikeshia Deal is a patient supervisor with Cooper University Health Care. 

She said having community events like this are vital to encourage people to get tested.  

"It's important to know your status for yourself, for your community, for your family and for the individuals around you," Deal said.

Organizers believe it's a mission that extends well beyond World AIDS Day. 

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