SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Phoenix Project at Union Mission and the First City Pride Center held a World AIDS Day event on Wednesday afternoon in Forsyth Park.

The groups hosted a walkthrough of the timeline of the events and advancements in the history of HIV/AIDS. A vigil followed in honor of those who were lost to AIDS.

“I hope by us gathering here tonight it will help spark more change in this community to address the still very present issue of HIV in our community,” Stephanie Kaple, the program manager of Phoenix House, said at the vigil.

Phoenix House is a 10-bed housing program run by Union Mission for those living with HIV/AIDS.

The program provides services for those living with HIV/AIDS so that they might go on to lead happier, healthier lives. Their services range from health care to rental assistance.

This event was the first of what the groups hope will become an annual tradition of observing World AIDS Day and honoring the legacies of those lost to HIV/AIDS.

The event also featured tables from Union Mission, First City Pride Center, Fair Count and the Savannah Alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. One table offered free at-home HIV tests provided by the local health department. Several tables offered informational pamphlets on subject ranging from HIV/AIDS to mental health to voting.

“We don’t forget the fact that, although we are making progress in the battle, there are people who succumbed in the battle,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

Johnson was one of many speakers at the vigil, including representatives from Union Mission.

“Just because it’s not a death sentence doesn’t mean it’s not a very big problem,” Joseph Mongold said.

Mongold is the outreach coordinator for Union Mission. He was the one who put together the vigil and walkthrough event.

World AIDS Day was started in 1988 by the World Health Organization in order to help unite countries, cities, organizations and individuals in the fight against AIDS.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and is caused by HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. AIDS causes the body to become more susceptible to disease and infection.

Since 1981, there have been 39 million deaths due to HIV/AIDS worldwide.

For more information about how to prevent HIV and AIDS visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website covering the subject here.