JOPLIN, MO.---- It's a simple question that will likely be asked many times over the next 2 days.
"AIDS project of the Ozarks has actually teamed up with a lot of community partners for HIV Awareness for World AIDS Day which is actually tomorrow, December 1st," states Ruth West, AIDS Project of the Ozarks.
Members from several community organizations set up a booth in the Student Center of Missouri Southern's campus to distribute informational materials and red ribbons for the cause.
"They wanted to do it while they had students on campus so that there was more awareness going on in the community and on campus because bringing HIV Awareness to the community is actually the key to prevention," states Jim Raines, Apo Client.
This message of education and prevention is something APO client, Jim Raines is personally dedicated to spreading.
"I've lived with HIV for 23 years and I think it's very important that people continue to make themselves aware because this is a forgotten illness," states Raines.
Remembrance was key today. The World AIDS Awareness Day events concluded when students and faculty gathered to release balloons near the center of campus. Although only 60 of these red balloons were released into the air today, each one represents 10 people in Southwest Missouri who have died from AIDS over the past 3 decades.
"Each person that's gone, we have gained so much from their lives. Doctors have learned things, scientists and things and now we have more medicine. A lot of those people that are gone were big activists in the early years," states West.
The work of these activists is something many agree has helped change people's beliefs about this disease.
"We get a one time opportunity at this time of year to dedicate to making people aware that its still out there and it's not to be as feared as it was in the beginning. There's lots of things that help keep us healthy for many years, we can live normally," states West.
According to the most recent figures collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Midwest has the lowest number of people diagnosed with AIDS compared to other regions in the country.