Mildred Richard, a crew leader with Le Bonheur's Community HIV Network, is all smiles all the time. With her "live life large" philosophy, you would never know she's HIV positive.
"Upon learning different things, researching, I found out that I wasn't dying from anything; I was living. I tell people I live out loud," says Richard.
After her diagnosis, she's now out loud about HIV/AIDS awareness.
As of December 2010, more than 2,300 women, infants, children and youth living with HIV or AIDS are in Shelby County, according to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital experts.
The hospital's Community HIV Network spread awareness during World AIDS Day on Saturday, hoping knowledge will eliminate stigmas and create an HIV/AIDS free community. The group sent candles along the Mississippi River celebrating the lives of those who lost their battle from the disease and those still living with it.
Of those diagnosed with the disease in Tennessee, 40 percent live in Memphis, according to Le Bonheur health experts.
"Of the newly diagnosed, one in four is a youth, 13 to 24, and youth are the largest population who don't even know what their HIV status is so that makes their HIV more transmissible," says Nancy Liebbe, whose brother has lived HIV positive for 20 years.
Liebbe says HIV is now a chronic disease and can be treated. She says HIV is no longer a death sentence.
"People still believe that, that stigma and misinformation. HIV has become a chronic disease. With care you can live a long normal life," she says.
Richard is a living testament of that.
But Richard still says knowledge leads to prevention, adding, "We're rapidly being affected daily and a lot of people still feel that it can't happen to them. I never thought it could happen to me but it did, so education is powerful. When you know better, you do better."