Thousands of Oklahomans could have HIV and not know it
Christmas music fills the room at Expressions Church in NW Oklahoma City.
Everyone is accepted there, including a woman who's calling herself "Sister Mora Lee Wong."
She found out she had HIV last year.
"It was a shock but I had been a wild child so to speak when I was younger," she said.
"We're seeing new infections every single day," said Cimarron Alliance Director Scott Hamilton.
Fifty-four years after the virus claimed its first victim, it's still a topic people find uncomfortable. And around the world folks who have it are often shut out.
"This is a good opportunity for really be held up to the light and the love and be remembered....for people to feel that they're not alone," said Cathedral of Hope Pastor Matt Perkins.
The unconventional service is filled with red. People donned the color to remember those who died from the virus and celebrate the strides we've seen in treatments.
"I've been on medication for a year and shortly thereafter I became what we call "non-detectable," the Sister said.
In Oklahoma the State Health Dept. estimates nearly 1,800 people have HIV and do not know it. Around 8,500 cases are diagnosed state-wide.
And while many of those who showed their support were from the LGBT community, they're not the only ones affected.
"Most new infections are among heterosexual people around the world," Hamilton said.
The key, they believe, is to keep HIV-AIDS on the forefront of people's minds.
"We have a responsibility...to keep talking and keep educating and keep saving lives," said Hamilton.
That way it stops spreading. And people who have it can live out their lives doing what they love:
"Just spreading joy," said the Sister, "I want everybody to be happy."
The Health Dept. offers free HIV testing. You can call 211 to find the nearest clinic.