AIDS Walk Buffalo

May 18, 2013 Updated May 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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May 18, 2013 Updated May 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y (WKBW) - Community activists are weighing a difficult combination tonight. As AIDS treatments improve, more young people are putting themselves at risk. Today, people affected by HIV and AIDS walked to change that.

More than 500 people walked in solidarity and tossed flowers into Hoyt lake for the lives lost in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

"it did take a tremendous impact on my life," said Barbara Poff, who was diagnosed with the virus in 2000. "I felt like it was the end of the world. I was just so devastated, that I continued using drugs and alcohol, not taking my medication. So I got sick, really sick, in and out of the hospital."

Poff moved from Miami to Western New York, where she turned her life around and truly began fighting HIV.

So much progress has been made with HIV medication. Poff says doctors don't see it in her system anymore, but undetectable doesn't mean cured. In fact, she's one of about 20,000 infected Upstate and Western New Yorkers awaiting a cure.

"it's still as scary as it was in 1992," said Katelyn Walker, whose dad died of AIDS. "the awareness still needs to be put out there."

While government data shows an HIV and AIDS decline, Evergreen Health Services says it notices an increase in recent years. One of their biggest goals is to raise awareness amongst teens and young adults, which is where an increase of the virus has been detected.

"sadly, we're seeing this in younger folks," said Justin Azzarella of Evergreen Health Services. "so people who weren't alive in the 80's or 90's for the original epidemic, don't understand the importance of safe sex practices."

Many Channel 7 personalities participated in the event, including John Borsa, co-chair of today's walk, and our Web Guy Mitch Simon, who walked with his mother for his Uncle Maurice, who passed away from the virus in 1995.