PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A local organization is using World AIDS Day to raise awareness for the disease.

On Thursday, BASIC NWFL hosted a candlelight vigil to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS and encourage people to get tested.

This year the theme is “Putting Ourselves To The Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.” to encourage HIV testing and prevention.

“The quilt that is behind me has many, many different names on it of those are all people that have passed from HIV in our area in the last 20 to 30 years,” BASIC NWFL Executive Director Ed Cox said.

Cox said since COVID started, people stopped getting tested for AIDS and they want to change that.

“World AIDS Day is a time for us to do two things, one, to remember those that have been lost to the disease that have gone on before us,” Cox said. “To remember them and then also to be able to spread the word and get recognition out there that this still exists, It’s still going on in our communities.”

One of their missions is to break the stigma surrounding aids.

“Due to that stigma, people are reluctant to get tested when they really should just to be on the safe side,” Cox said. “If nothing else, I believe people know to some extent that resources do exist, but they won’t reach out, even though they may need those resources.”

BASIC offers testing for HIV, Hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

They will help you find the right medications, set up doctor’s appointments, and connect you with a support group.

“Everybody is going through things in life and to not look down on those that go through different things than what you and I go through,” BASIC NWFL Board Chair Darryl Hooks said. “So I totally enjoy being part of the BASIC because of the purpose and what it stands for and what it does for those people that are living with HIV and AIDS.”

Hooks said they just want the community to know they are here to help.

They have several more events scheduled this week.

Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, PanCare of Florida Inc., BASIC NWFL, and the Department of Health-Bay will be teaming up to host a community event.

They will be offering free medical exams, eye exams, and dental exams. They’ll also be offering HIV, STD, and HEP-C testing.

The event will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on both days and is taking place in the Grocery Outlet parking lot located at 225 South Tyndall Parkway in Callaway.