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Annual Vigil to Remember AIDS Victims


LANCASTER — AIDS activists in the Antelope Valley will conduct their second annual AIDS Memorial Candlelight Vigil tonight, offering residents an open microphone to pay tribute to loved ones and friends they have lost to the disease.

"We'd really like to get people who have been personally affected (to attend) because it gives them a chance to grieve and do it in a public way," said physician Susan E. Lawrence, founder and president of the Lancaster-based Catalyst Foundation for AIDS Awareness and Care, the event's sponsor.

She added: "One of the best ways to deal with grief is to tell the story over and over, sometimes in public, sometimes in private with a friend."

Lawrence, whose husband died of AIDS, said her own public speaking appearances at local schools have helped her cope.

Tonight's event will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Master, 725 E. Ave. J, in Lancaster. It begins at 6 p.m. with a hot chocolate mixer, followed by a one-mile candlelight walk along Avenue J from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m.

Afterward, a band assembled by musician Larry Pratt will perform in the church parking lot, including a song Pratt composed for someone living with AIDS.

Participants will be able to view a section of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which carries the names of people who have died of the disease. In addition, participants will be able to share memories and pay tribute to friends and relatives who have died of AIDS.

"We carry so much baggage when people die of AIDS," said Brian Maxey, vice president of Catalyst Foundation and organizer of the event. "This is a good way to let some of that go."

He said grief counselors will be available at the event.

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