With a candlelight vigil tonight and a countywide conference tomorrow, Howard County health officials and members of the interfaith community will join HIV carriers and their families to commemorate World AIDS Day, which is tomorrow.
The events will focus on the rights and treatment of those who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), also called the AIDS virus.
"This is not just a health issue," said the Rev. Douglas Hunt, pastor of Columbia United Christian Church, which is the host for tonight's vigil at the Oakland Mills Meeting House at 5885 Robert Oliver Place. "This is a spiritual issue. God is with you most when you're suffering."
In Howard County, 151 cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) were reported from January 1981 to this Sept. 30. Of those, 90 people have died.
Statewide, 12,756 AIDS cases were reported during the same period. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reported 441,528 AIDS cases by the end of 1994, the center's latest figures.
But health officials believe that the number of people infected with HIV is far greater than the number of reported AIDS cases. In Howard County, the number of HIV-infected people is estimated from 900 to 1,300, said Mary Mazzuca, HIV coordinator for the county Health Department.
Tonight's vigil, which will include members of eight religious denominations, will begin at 8 p.m. Members of the Hopkins United Methodist Church Young Adult Choir will sing.
Tomorrow's conference, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Howard Community College's Smith Auditorium, will include health officials from Johns Hopkins Hospital and a panel of people infected with HIV.
For more information about the events or to make an appointment for HIV testing, call the Health Department at 313-2333.