PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It wasn’t an offering of communion or a traditional service, even as the congregation sang.

Members swabbed their mouths, showing how easy and fast it is to test for HIV.

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“In that time that it takes to lift up a song, to tell a story, to offer a prayer, lives can be saved,” the pastor said.

The non-denominational service was held at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, remembering those who live with HIV and those that have passed from AIDS.

“World AIDS Day is really a celebration of remembering those that we’ve lost and realizing how far we still have to come,” said Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto.

Dr. Marla Johnson has been working in communities and with HIV positive and AIDS patients for nearly three decades. She says and increase in readily-available testing has shone a light on how many are living with the disease.

“It is growing rapidly,” Johnson said. “The more people are tested, the more we’re finding that the rate is rising, is higher.”

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Many at the service were insistent that more education will lead to fewer cases.

“Perhaps eventually we can see a generation where there are no new cases diagnosed,” said nurse practitioner Charles E. Timbers, Jr.

“As a whole, if we work together, we can and are making a difference,” one person added.

Organizers say as of last year, almost 3,400 were living with HIV or AIDS in Allegheny County and those are the ones who have been tested. And in the US, where research and medications are improving, James Lucius says it’s important to remember those who aren’t so lucky.

“Those numbers are ever increasing,” he said. “People are still dying, maybe not in our county, because we have medication, but worldwide it’s a tragedy.”

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Heather Abraham