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A list of lives lost: Kansas City man remembers late friends on World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day
Posted at 12:47 PM, Dec 01, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On a small piece of paper, Russell Petry wrote down the names of 19 friends.

"We laughed, we joked, we teased each other," Petry said. "And we would take the UNO cards and take two decks, and we had a lot of Wild cards."

Card games with his close friends are now a memory after losing them to AIDS.

"A lot of them are gone today. One by one just went, and so all I have left of those people are those memories of them," Petry said. "That's tough. When it becomes personal ... when it starts touching people in your life ... it becomes really real."

Thursday, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day, remembering those who died. The AIDS Service Foundation Kansas City reports more than a million people are living with AIDS, and 25% aren't aware they have it.

Petry says this day serves as a reminder of why he works to raise awareness of AIDS prevention and the resources available in Kansas City.

"Every time that I tell someone about the resources that are out there to help people, it's remembering those friends ... because they died but I don't want them to die in vain," Petry said.

He hopes by working to make a difference their legacy can live on and help others.

"I've always had the philosophy, if I could change one person's life, then everything I've done will be worth it," Petry said. "I think that's what God expects of us, is to try and make a difference in this world one person at a time. And if you can make an impact on one person, think of all the people doing this work and all the impact that's being made."

Blaine Proctor is the CEO of Save, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides a number of different wrap-around services for people in need, such as providing housing and treatment.

Called Alhaven, the 107 units are dedicated to those who do not have shelter and are HIV positive.

"Once you get into treatment and maintain treatment, you can reach an undetectable status," Proctor said. "The HIV virus is no longer detectable in your system, which means you cannot transmit it to someone else. So being stably housed is key to reaching in maintaining a healthy status with their HIV."

Both Proctor and Petry attend Trinity United Methodist Church. In December 2016, the church debuted a memorial, honoring lives lost to AIDS.

"One Sunday I was here and they dedicated the memorial," Proctor said. "And the entire service was about Trinity's history in working with HIV. There was so much love in that church that day, and I know this is where I needed to be."

Proctor says while there is a lot of progress that's been made since the 1980s, there's still more work to be done.

Medical treatment for HIV can cost anywhere between $3000-$5000 a month.

For more information on SAVE, Inc. and the services it provides, click here.