Palm Beach Co. drag queen works to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS

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PALM BEACH COUNTY, Florida – This month marks the 40th anniversary of the start of the HIV / AIDS epidemic.

The disease has claimed the lives of approximately 700,000 Americans since 1981.

In the past 20 years, infections and deaths have declined dramatically thanks to awareness and new treatments.

Most people know drag queen Melissa St. John as the “First Lady of the Palm Beaches”. But aside from her passion for performing on stage, she has another passion that you might not be aware of. She has been an activist and activist against HIV / AIDS for 30 years.

“I have really suffered a lot from the AIDS epidemic. As far as this goes, all of the roommates I have had since I left home, except two, have died of AIDS. There were so many people I sat down with who held their hands for their last breath, ”said St. John.

These experiences led her to get involved in organizations that would help survivors of the disease.

“That’s kind of how I handled it. Although you know it, it is a sad occasion or situation when someone you live with dies. But it made me stronger like that. So, I thought I wanted to get more involved and create some events or fundraisers or be involved in the ones that have already been created in order to get the safety message across and make sure you get it right. test, ”St. John said.

A notable is called Mother’s Cupboard.

“We decided to form this troop or this group of individuals, talented drag people, live singers you know. It was called Mother’s Cupboard, ”said St. John. “So we would go around the county and sometimes outside of Palm Beach County and we would do shows with everyone involved to raise money for the organization. “

Today, antiretroviral therapy helps people live longer, healthier lives while reducing the risk of transmission. The daily pill known as “Prep” prevents people at high risk from getting infected. Yet 37,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year and approximately one million live with HIV in the United States.

Melissa would like to see the day when there will be a cure. For now, she hopes the makeup, wigs and sets will not only entertain the public, but continue to raise awareness about the fight against AIDS.

“Make a difference, not only in your life, but also in other lives… in a positive way,” said St. John.

A new CDC study just released shows that annual new HIV infections have fallen by 73% since the start of the AIDS epidemic so far. Health officials say it is the result of the work of scientists, patients and activists.

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