NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to bring awareness to another pandemic that still affects more than 1 million Americans.

A pop-up testing program was held in Harlem and, as CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported, it was led by some staff members living with HIV.

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“I found out, myself, that I was positive in 2005 … July 27, as a matter of fact, and I wasn’t comfortable with it. I lied about it. I told people it was cancer because I wasn’t ready to face it,” said Forrest Boggs, recovery coach for the Alliance for Positive Change.

It took Boggs years to come to terms with his HIV-positive status. Now, he works with an outreach program that offers free testing for both HIV and Hep C, and supports those faced with a diagnosis.

“Knowing your status is a big part of it. Then that way you keep yourself healthy. You’re not infecting other people,” Boggs said.

For more than 30 years the Alliance for Positive Change has been fighting to improve the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS. The goal is to bring tests directly to at-risk communities.

“It’s important that they know they’re positive/not positive so they cannot transmit it to other people,” director Arianne Watson said.

And also so they can get medical care.

“The Alliance are providing not only the testing but also treatment care resources,” said Karine Siltz-Kapinga, founder of African Advocates Against AIDS.

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“If you don’t know, you can’t get help,” Harlem resident Alejandro Okuendo added. “I have a cousin, he’s lived with it for almost 30 years.”

The virus was first discovered in the 1980s. It is transmitted through blood products, like unclean needles, or from mother to baby, or unprotected sex.

“It’s very important. Because at the end of the day, if you’re out here having sex without using protection then you should get yourself checked out,” another person said.

Health exerts say approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are HIV positive. There were 35,000 new infections in 2019, although there has been a 30% decline in new infections since 2010, thanks in part due to increased testing and awareness.

On Wednesday, a mobile van moved to different locations around the city, but there are also permanent clinics where testing is available five days a week.

“You don’t have to face this by yourself. There’s medication out there to help you. You can live a long life,” Boggs said.

For a list of clinics, please click here.

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World AIDS Day started in 1988 and is dedicated to raising awareness about the virus. This year’s theme is “Equitable access, everyone’s voice.”

Natalie Duddridge