Dec. 1 marked World AIDS Day, a day set aside to remember those we have lost to the worldwide HIV epidemic, and a day for coming together to foster awareness about the disease and the future. 

The West Volusia community showed its level of care and support in a variety of formats. One event was under the umbrella of Brenda Flowers-Dalley, CEO of the nonprofit organization Rising Against All Odds. 

Rising Against All Odds, or RAAO, is an HIV advocacy group that provides free and confidential HIV testing at its DeLand office, as well as a mobile clinic and home visits. 

AIDS is a disease that can develop in people with HIV. It’s the most advanced stage of HIV. But, with medical care, treatment and supportive services like those provided by RAAO, the development of AIDS can be prevented, Flowers-Dalley explained. 

“Our focus is ‘Getting to Zero,’ which is a national effort to have support services for those living with HIV in our community,” Flowers-Dalley said. “Through consistent efforts and support, we are now providing direct access to health care and medication.” 

She noted that by partnering with an infectious-disease provider and a local pharmacy, RAAO is able to offer full services in West Volusia for those who are HIV-positive. 

“As a grassroots organization, we can make sure no client feels alone. We give special attention to the homeless, indigent and often-overlooked populations for access to care and support,” Flowers-Dalley said. 

This year, RAAO presented its first World AIDS Day Gala that the organization plans to continue annually. DeLand Pride and Medicine Shoppe DeLand were key partners that helped with the gala staged Nov. 30 at Venue 142. 

Entertainment was presented by Ginger Beer, Aaliyah Valentino, Anita Waistline (Miss DeLand Pride 2019), Twisted T (Mister DeLand Pride 2019) and Ivanna Waistline. It was an evening of fun and engagement for all. 

Through these efforts and events and others, RAAO will continue to support and advocate, as they have done for more than eight years, to ensure that the support is provided to those living with HIV. However, this cannot be done alone. Visit www.risingagainstallodds.org for more information. 

— Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com