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STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER Paul Baloga shares some reflections with students how this portion of the mammoth AIDS quilt came about.

A World AIDS Day remembrance at Keystone College Thursday night turned into a full-blown revelation about what Dr. Shubbrua Shetty called, “Scranton’s best-kept secret.”

The Commonwealth Medical College Associate Dean, was on hand to talk about the school’s Wright Center for Community Health Ryan White Infectious Disease Clinic.

The Keystone program opened with a non-denominational prayer service, and the entrance of Sister Ruth Neely who carried to the podium a bowl with some colorful cards in it.

The member of the Sisters of Mercy said the people represented those she has had the privilege of knowing. Four Keystone public health students read excerpts of letters representing those people who shared personal stories of those she had known.

That was followed by a panel discussion of experts on the status of HIV/AIDS in our area.

Portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display and Paul Baloga, HIV Intervention Nurse Consultant for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, shared how each panel was roughly 3x6 to reflect the size of a casket, give or take a little.

Despite increased knowledge about transmission and prevention, there are newly diagnosed HIV infections each year in the United States. While that number has declined in recent years, the need for effective AIDS education and prevention continues.

According to Dr. Shetty, no cure exists for this disease that was first diagnosed in the 1980s.

It is always fatal without treatment.

In the U.S., Baloga said he remembered a time where people took fistfuls of medicine to survive.

Shetty said patients survive many years after diagnosis because of the availability of drugs that have become more sophisticated.

In fact, most can live next-to-normal lives.

The panel shared testimonies of individuals whom were seen at the Wright Center, and how they might present themselves.

The center serves roughly 430 clients.

Sister Ruth said, “Some people are in their 20s, some in their 40s, some from outside the area, and some who are in prison.

She identified the patient population as underserved, hard-to-reach, and low income.”