BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- When people hear "life threatening disease," many people may think cancer. Not as many people these days would think of AIDS or HIV, but those two viruses are still a serious problem in the lives of some Mainers.
At the Eastern Maine AIDS Network, or EMAN, in downtown Bangor, educator Sharon Paul's Mission is to teach as many people as she can about the management and prevention of the HIV and AIDS viruses.
Prevention Educator and Outreach Counselor, Sharon Paul says, "HIV is spread, I'd say, mostly through unprotected sex."
It's also spread through the sharig of syringe needles commonly used by drug users.
"When they inject it, they sometimes draw blood back in to the needle and then shoot it up. And then they'll share if someone doesn't have enough drugs, so they'll share," Paul says.
EMAN collects and disposes of the these used needles, last year disposing of more than 180,000 of them. The facility currently has more than seventy clients, many of them recently diagnosed with the HIV virus.
Paul says, "It's still shocking to get that diagnosis of HIV positive. Even though everyone says it's a managable disease, it's still in the back of your mind, you could die."
Paul understands the struggle of those infected with HIV- she was diagnosed with the virus 11 years ago. But she no longer lives in fear that the disease will take her life. She found support and strength and now strives to give that samw support to the people who turn to EMAN for help. She encourages people who feel alone to reach out to the network and get the care they need. For all of her efforts, Paul was named one of the one hundred unsung heroes of 2013 by POZ magazine. But its nothing compared to the reward she gets from helping people every day.
She says, "There's a lot of great people out there who are amazing and doing wonderful work in the HIV field."