Flag raised in Springfield to recognize National Latino HIV and Aids Awareness Day

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Thousands of people are diagnosed with HIV and Aids every year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million people died of HIV and Aids in 2016.

Jesus Rosa of Springfield was just a little boy when his grandfather lost his battle to HIV.

He told 22News, he has since devoted his life to making sure other people don’t suffer the same way his grandfather did. “When he contracted HIV it was the early 90s, and back then they didn’t have the services that we have now, or the treatment. My grandfather unfortunately passed away, I believe it was a year, year and a half after contracting the virus.”

Rosa was one of several people who gathered at City Hall in Springfield Friday, for National Latino HIV and Aids Awareness Day, a day that aims to raise awareness about the disease, and prevention.

The City of Springfield did their part by becoming the first city in Massachusetts to raise the HIV and Aids Awareness flag.

Terry Rodriguez of the New North Citizens’ Council told 22News raising awareness and education the public in western Massachusetts is critical to saving lives. “The young people think they’re invincible. We can pass out condoms but by the time we get them when they’re done with high school it’s too late. They need to start doing sex education in the schools.”

One in seven of people living with HIV in the U.S. don’t know they have it.

Click here for information on free HIV testing in Springfield.