"Even among their family members, I have to make sure with the client that other people in their household know, because sometimes they don't," Vincent said.
An intolerance of the LGBT community adds to the stigma, said Ellen Allen, executive director of Covenant House.
"You have the disease and then overlay that with a very fundamentalist -- in some ways evangelical -- attitude that it's a gay disease," Allen said. "So you have the disease but you also have the ignorance and intolerance."
While gay and bisexual men still make up the majority of Americans with HIV/AIDS, the black community as a whole is the ethnic group most affected by the virus, according to the CDC.
As of 2009, black Americans accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections, despite representing only 14 percent of the U.S. population, according to the agency.
The disease affects every demographic, though, Vincent said.
"There are groups that carry more of the burden than others, like African-Americans and gay men, but I've got people who are rabid NASCAR fans, I've got a lot of married couples, I've got college students -- they really are all over the ball park," Vincent said. "It throws your stereotypes out the window."
Because AIDS patients are living longer on medication, Brandon said, he's noticed complacency about getting it among young people.
"The complacency is that, 'Oh, I can take a pill. It's not a big deal anymore,'" he said. "It's a very big deal. It's a very expensive deal, more than anything."
While Brandon has no financial burden, he knows other patients who pay a $500 co-pay for three months of the medication, he said.
It's not only the money, though. People's lifestyles change when they get HIV/AIDS, Brandon said.
"It's like living with diabetes," Brandon said. "Someone learns to live with that, but there are plenty of other people out there who don't have to worry about eating that piece of cake."
Rather than cake, though, people with HIV have to worry about cutting their hand open or telling someone they're dating about their illness.
"Every relationship, eventually, is possibly going to put that person at risk," he said.
It's difficult to tell someone he cares for about the disease, Brandon said. They sound sympathetic, he said. Some don't call him anymore.
"[They say], 'Oh I'm so sorry. You sounded like such a great person,'" Brandon said. "Oh, I sounded like such a great person -- and now I don't?"
Covenant House workers say consistent testing for HIV is the most critical way of combating the disease. The infection takes six months to show up in your body.
"If you had unprotected sex last night and you get tested, you're results will not be true," Bennett said. "People are reactionary. That [test] is only going to answer for six months before. People think they're OK, and then they spread it."
Because of its history of working with HIV/AIDS patients, Covenant House will be the recipient of a Red Ribbon Award Saturday at a service marking World AIDS Day.
The service, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church on the East End, will be followed by a candlelight procession to the Living AIDS Memorial Garden, at the corner of Washington Street East and Sidney Avenue.
At 9 p.m., the Broadway nightclub on Leon Sullivan Way will host a 1980s-party fundraiser for the Living AIDS Memorial Garden. There will be a $5 cover for the party and people are encouraged to make an additional donation to the memorial garden.
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.