The city of New Bedford joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Aids Day Tuesday evening with a brief opening ceremony at City Hall followed by a candlelight vigil to Nativity Preparatory School where a larger ceremony and dinner took place. 

During the opening ceremony, representatives from Seven Hills Behavioral Health, Steppingstone Inc., Greater New Bedford Community Health Center and Team Michael joined members of the City Council to discuss this year's theme: a time for change.

This year's theme involves spreading the message of prevention. Connie-Rocha Mimoso, Director of Community Health Services at Seven Hills, said it's time to eradicate the stigma of HIV testing.

"We need to stop the stigma of getting tested. So many of us advocate for ourselves to get a CAT scan, blood work, but we are ashamed to walk into a clinic and get tested," said Mimoso.

Mimoso said the major preventative measures for youth is more sexual education in schools and easily available testing.

Rev. David Lima of the Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford said despite advancement in medicine and technology, the world can't become complacent.

"It's not that we don't want to remember, but life moves on. It moves on for some of us, but not for others who no longer hear us. Not for others who live everyday struggling, wondering if the drugs are going to keep them going," Lima said.

According to, globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

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