Photos by Michael Garcia. Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital doctors, participants.
On World AIDS Day, people join together in support of those fighting against HIV/AIDS and to fight misconceptions and stigmas surrounding the disease.
According to Memorialcare, 36.9 million people are living with HIV worldwide, with 2.6 million of those being children. Only a fraction of those living with HIV are aware of their diagnosis and are receiving treatment.
Doctors and participants from Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach wore red ribbons, symbols of HIV awareness and signed their names on a large red ribbon to show their support for HIV and AIDS awareness. People living with HIV shared their struggles, including Kennedy Kiboro who told the Post about his experience living with the incurable disease.
“When I was around 15 I went to UCI and I was diagnosed with pneumonia,” said Kiboro, who is now a young adult. “When I came back, they sent me to Long Beach and it was there I learned I was HIV positive. It was very hard at first. I didn’t understand anything, I was scared but I was also kinda pissed. Then it was more about numbing the pain I was experiencing. I don’t know why I got HIV, but now I’m on a mission to help people feel better in the process.”
Kiboro spoke out positively about living with HIV and thanked the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center for making him feel accepted and loved, a reaction he feared he wouldn’t receive from the outside world.
Tempe Chen, a doctor at the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center for 10 years, explained the significance of Word AIDS Day and promoting HIV awareness.
“Unfortunately, the HIV epidemic continues and the fastest growing population is in adolescents and young adults,” she said.
Dr. Chen said the center receives new patients between the ages of 15 to 24.
“These are kids that haven’t lived through the HIV epidemic in the 80s,” Chen said “Kids used to be nervous about it and now think, ‘Oh there’s medication, it’s like herpes. It’s not a matter of if I get it, it’s when,’ which is really alarming to me as a provider.”
Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Mobile Clinic.
Doctors stressed the importance of taking preventative measures and highlighted the mobile clinics offered through a partnership with the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. People can get tested with an oral swab and have results in as little as 20 minutes.
“Like some of the speakers here said, we’re living now in the Golden Age for HIV because treatments are so advanced but what’s sad is that everyone outside of that mentality is still in the Dark Ages when people were dying with HIV and AIDS. People don’t really put all that together,” Kiboro said.
Dr. Chen explained how advances in treatment have changed and how now treatment is being promoted as soon as someone is diagnosed.
“We want you to start on your treatment as soon as possible as long as you’re ready,” Chen said. “We find that if you take your medication every day, you can have the same lifespan as someone who is HIV negative.”