Survivors share their story on World AIDS Day - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

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Survivors share their story on World AIDS Day

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AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

HIV/AIDS effects 2 million people every single year. It's killed 39 million since 1981.

"I was diagnosed at age 23 in 1991," said Lisa Wentworth. "I'll never ever forget it. It changed my life."

Lisa thought her life was over.

She spoke Tuesday night at the Hope Community Church in Amherst for World AIDS Day. 

"I had made a lot of bad choices and mistakes. I didn't think I'd see 25," she said.

The event, 'A Night of Hope', was an opportunity to fight HIV stigma.

Lisa is 47-years-old now. She isn't scared anymore to share what she's been through. 

"Back then it was a very different disease. People were very afraid. There was a lot of fear and a lot of misinformation," she said.

According to the CDC, more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. 12% don't know they have the virus. That's about 156,000 people.

Betsy Shally-Jensen knows all too well about the stigma surrounding HIV. She's the director of A Positive Place at Cooley Dickinson Health Care. 

"My path began with a soul mate of mine who shared her daughter with me to raise and for no good reason at all died at age 36 of AIDS," said Shalley-Jensen. 

Though there have have been tremendous breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, Betsy says it's time to stop being afraid. 

"We had to change our name from 'Aids Care' to 'A Positive Place' because  people were afraid to walk through our doors to get services."

For Lisa, it's her church that helped her. "This place saved my life for sure," she said. 

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