Local Events Promote World AIDS Day
In remembrance of the 1,700 individuals who have died from HIV in Los Angeles, the city began World AIDS Day activities a day early on Wednesday morning with a community walk, the distribution of red flowers and a ribbon cutting ceremony of a HIV-dedicated pharmacy.
World AIDS Day will be officially observed on Thursday, Dec. 1.
Wearing red ribbons, advocates, caregivers, HIV patients and loved ones began the walk from the AltaMed Health Services Clinic in East LA, handing out 1,700 red flowers to remember those lost and to advocate for disease prevention.
The new HIV/AIDS AltaMed Pharmacy is geared especially toward HIV-positive patients as a one-stop private clinic for their treatment needs.
53-year-old HIV patient Gregory Valenzuela, who has been battling the disease for 23 years, attended the event to show his support for prevention measures and to honor family members and friends he has lost.
When ATVN asked how the disease has evolved over the years, Valenzuela said that because of advancements and healing capabilities that have "quieted" AIDS, "it is not as well realized in the community. It has lost its face, the seriousness of it and devastation of what it does to one's life."
But an AltaMed representative explained how medical advancements have benefitted overall.
"As we stand here and think about the 30 years that HIV has essentially evolved in the story, we can see that scientific advancements have made life so much different for our patients, not only medically but socially as well. People can live with a normal life expectancy if they do well in treatment," he said.
The representative continued that though many people were optimistic for a complete eradication of the disease in earlier years, concessions have been made.
"We've realized in a lot of ways is that HIV is with us and it's here to stay," he said, "[now we] try to educate people that HIV is a disease that is preventable through modification of behavior and it's also a disease that once you have, you can treat and live with."
Other events in L.A. helped to kick off World AIDS Day.
Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Trade-Tech College's biology department held a presentation on HIV awareness with speakers from the AIDS Research Alliance and the college's faculty.
At Van Nuys City Hall, advocates from F.A.I.R. (For Adult Industry Responsibility) led a press conference campaigning for a proposed ordinance making condom use and sanitary work conditions required during the filming and production of adult films.