When Ashley Nicole Cason was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 15, she thought her life was over. Cason suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts as a teenager and sadly did not see a positive future for herself.
“I wanted to give up. I felt like my life was over and I couldn’t go on,” she said. It wasn’t until Cason received support from loved ones as an adult that she began to feel hope for her life.
Cason is a national advocate for HIV and AIDS. She spoke to the crowd at Community Health of South Florida, Inc.’s first World AIDS Day walk on December 3rd at JL and Enid W. Demps Park.
World AIDS Day is an annual international day that encourages people to come together to tear down the barriers that prevent people from accessing HIV testing, prevention, and access to treatment.
CHI highlighted this important cause to raise awareness for HIV and AIDs and to mourn the lives lost to this terrible illness. The community gathered on the tracks to participate in a one-mile walk, an energetic warm up and enjoyed great music and food with their families. CHI’s mobile medical van was also on site to administer free HIV screenings.
“I am so happy to see such a great turn out today,” said Blake Hall, CHI’s President and CEO. “It is my goal that CHI will always be here for those who are living with HIV. You are not alone.”
Cason believes events like this help tackle HIV and AIDS head-on by having open and honest discussions with others.
“When you are battling a chronic illness, it is important to have a good support system. There are many people who are HIV/AIDS positive that live and work amongst you,” said Cason. “While you are walking today, keep in mind the purpose of why you are here. We all need to support each other.”