LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For close to 30 years, the world has dedicated December 1 to recognizing those dealing with HIV or AIDS. Friday, the Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council (SLAC) made sure the voices of those dealing with the virus or condition were heard.
"I wanted to die because I felt all alone," said Darrell Latin, who tested positive for HIV close to 25 years ago. "I got hooked on heroin and it kind of just snowballed from there."
Despite contracting the virus, Latin has dedicated his life to further educating the public on the virus and how it can be prevented.
"My goal and my purpose is to reach the community, especially the addicted community," said Latin. "I come from that community, I can relate to them and they can relate to me."
Latin's efforts to highlight the life-altering effects of HIV could not be more important here in Southwest Louisiana.
"Over these 15 years, it's really averaged 40 to 42 new cases every year," said Carol Giles, director of client services for SLAC. "That has not changed, which is something I struggle with."
To make matters worse, Giles said she's seeing increasingly younger crowds with the virus.
"I think they have not experienced AIDS as the kind of epidemic that many of us saw in the '80s and '90s," said Giles.
She said a likely solution is pretty rudimentary.
"I want people to protect themselves," said Giles. "Not to depend on other people to take care of them."
Although Friday is World AIDS Day, Latin treats every day just as importantly.
"I have such a positive outlook now," said Latin. "I'm more uplifted, spirited, encouraged and empowered today."
To learn more about the resources available through SLAC, click HERE.