Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Many health officials in south Georgia are urging people here to get tested for the disease.
Georgia has the sixth highest number of people living with AIDS in the country. It's a disease that comes with a terrible stigma, and many people don't know they're infected with the AIDS virus.
"No one thinks their at risk. The CDC now says everyone that is sexually active over the age of 16 and up needs to be tested at least once a year, and that's not happening around the nation, and that's not happening in Georgia," said John Rogers, Public Health Educator.
One area that's spreading the virus is right here at home.
"In south Georgia the ten counties that we serve through the South Health District have about 950 living with HIV in this community, 460 in Lowndes County alone," said Rogers.
To get tested it's as easy as a mouth swab. Results will show in 20 minutes if you're either HIV negative or positive.
And students at Valdosta State are honoring World AIDS Day by encouraging their peers to get tested.
"People have a lot more freedom when they come to college, they think that they're older and they don't have parents to watch after them to say hey go get tested or take them to the doctor, so when they don't do that it rises," said Erika McCoy, with VSU's HERO organization.
Rogers says with the conversations sparked through World AIDS Day, he hopes people in the south will accept those with HIV and AIDS.
"They're terrified of anybody knowing they have HIV because the stigma of that disease is so prevalent still here in the south and in our area," said Rogers.
To get tested for HIV just call your local Health Department.
Tomorrow the HERO organization at VSU will hold a candlelight ceremony at 7:30 p.m. to remember all of the people who have lost their lives to AIDS.