(WTNH) – Connecticut lost a longtime AIDS advocate in October. On Monday morning, those who knew her gathered alongside U.S. Senator Chris Murphy to mark AIDS Awareness Month and celebrate the life of Shawn Lang.

During AIDS Awareness Month, advocates gathered in Elmwood to honor the life of someone who spent most of her life advocating for people impacted by the AIDS pandemic.

“She was only five feet tall, but she loved everyone and by the end of today, she’d be hugging you as well. She just had the biggest heart and most of that heart was loving people with HIV/AIDS,” said John Merz, CEO of Advancing Connecticut Together.

That person is Shawn Lang of Hartford who passed away several months ago. She was the former Deputy Director of AIDS Connecticut. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy says it was Lang who helped raise his awareness when he was a young state Senator in 2003.

“Shawn was somebody that understood that we were never going to eliminate the threat of AIDS infection here in Connecticut unless we were also working on this across the country and across the world,” Murphy said.

AIDS Connecticut has since become Advancing Connecticut Together. While the organization battles issues like homelessness, it remains on the forefront of the AIDS pandemic with a host of programs including one that provides clean syringes to prevent infection from dirty needles.

The AIDS pandemic is still an issue. It’s now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic in certain regions.

“We attacked AIDS both from a prevention and treatment standpoint. We’ve got to do the same thing with COVID,” Murphy said.

Murphy says people with AIDS are twice as likely to dive from COVID and more COVID vaccines are needed in sub-Saharan Africa.