After more than a decade, the local HIV/AIDS support group has stopped having regular support meetings.
Richard Wiskus, the group’s current director, said the executive committee decided this spring to suspend support group meetings due to a lack of attendance and participation. The meetings had been held weekly and more recently, monthly.
Mark’s Place will still do some awareness education in the community.
“Mark’s Place has done a phenomenal job in the years since its beginnings and they will be there as long as there is a need,” said Judy Dollard, who founded the group in 1996 after discovering her son, Mark, was HIV-positive. In July of 2005, Dollard and her husband moved from Terre Du Lac to Florida to be closer to her son, who she said is doing well.
Members believe the lack of attendance at support group meetings was because people with HIV/AIDS, are able to lead normal lives.
“I, too, feel that the need for AIDS support has dwindled due to the drugs that have enabled long and better lives for those infected, but the need for education continues to be extremely important in all communities,” she said. “The infection rate is still there as many have become complacent about the new drugs and do not have the memories of the ‘80s when so many died without any hope of long-term survival.
“AIDS is still alive and continues to infect those not educated and communities still need to be vigilant and support those that are there giving their time and expertise to this cause.”
Dollard continues to raise awareness about the disease in senior groups in Florida.
“I very much miss being an active part of the group, but continue to support the cause here in Florida,” Dollard said. “There is no such place as Mark’s Place and it is desperately needed in this area.
“Seniors are continuing to become infected because of their lack of knowledge or awareness about STDs.”
Dollard said she wants to thank everyone who supported and continues to support Mark’s Place.
“Mark’s Place has lasted longer than any other HIV/AIDS support group in the state of Missouri and it is a credit to the community and to those dedicated to its mission,” she said. “… We could not have done it without the help of all those wonderful members of Mark’s Place that have given their time and energy. God Bless them, they surely deserve it.”