TAMPA, Fla. – Many living with HIV/AIDS have long suffered through scrutiny along with the harsh reality that their days were numbered.
Throughout the years, researchers have learned a lot about the disease, which in turn has led those living with the disease to live longer lives.
Saturday morning, hundreds of people showed up to Vinoy park in St.Pete for the annual Tampa Bay AIDS Walk.
For the first time in history, more than half of those living with HIV are now receiving treatment.
When Michael Green was first diagnosed with AIDS 30 years ago, doctors said he only had a few months to live.
“So, my family made arrangements. Plots were taken up for me. I planned my death,” says Green.
Green would take multiple pills a day during the early years of his diagnosis. Now, with the advancement in medical research, more options were made available for people living with HIV/AIDS.
“Today you're taking one pill, maybe two pills a day. We're living a lot longer. It's not a killer no more,” he says.
It takes many donations and a lot of awareness to get research for HIV/AIDS.
That's what motivates people like Chrys Bundy to participate in the Tampa Bay AIDS walk.
“When I grew up, there were many people dying of the diseases and I remember that,” says Bundy. “I lost friends. I'm here because I don't want anyone to go through that and lose their loved ones.”
While the treatments and medications are keeping people living with diseases alive longer, people like Green are concerned about what possible tax cuts to Medicare and Medicaid could do.
“My pills, if I didn't have insurance, are $3,000 to $4,000 a month. I'm afraid what it's going to do to me. I'm afraid what it's going to do to the organizations,” says Green.
However, Green is a fighter, just like many of these people who suffer from the disease and together they will persevere.
“It’s not a killer anymore, it’s a manageable disease,” says Green.
Both Pinellas and Hillsborough County have Ryan White Clinics and funding.
It provides primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.
Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December 1984. He was just 13 years old.
Months after this death, Congress passed the legislation bearing his name in August 1990 - the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.
Money raised during the AIDS walk goes to support Epic, a member of Empath Health.
EPIC provides a wide variety of services from HIV case management, counseling, to pharmacy services and housing grants from its five locations to more than 10,000 people in the region.
Without this assistance, HIV treatment and the other programs would cost individuals thousands of dollars a month or otherwise be unobtainable.
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