In addition to a plethora of events occurring countywide in honor of World AIDS Day, Long Beach will be the site of at least two events commemorating the internationally-recognized occasion, which honors those who have tragically succumbed to the virus.
Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital and The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach have prepared special ceremonies in commemoration of a virus that, since 2013, has been contracted by approximately 6,256 people in the City of Long Beach, according to The Center’s Director of Health and Wellness Ismael Morales.
“Based on the city’s report, there is an approximate 50 percent mortality rate with about 3,126 people living with AIDS since 2013,” said Morales. “It’s important to note, however, that AIDS is disproportionately impacting the Black and Latino communities in Long Beach. It’s equally important to note that there have been (since March 31, 2014) 1,593 cumulative cases of HIV in the city also mostly white, men who have sex with men.”
Morales was quick to point out the difference between HIV and AIDS, and said most people who are infected with HIV rarely develop into an AIDS diagnosis.
The Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital event, which began at noon today, will run through 5:00PM and feature a pediatric patient art exhibit and music provided by Victoria Bailey from 2:00 to 4:00PM. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided throughout the event, located at Houssels Forum (2801 Atlantic Avenue).
Meanwhile, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach will be hosting its fifth annual World AIDS Day Candlelight Walk. Scheduled to begin at 5:00PM, the event will feature an art exhibit by patients of St. Mary Hospital’s C.A.R.E. program (which provides HIV and AIDS treatment and services) and appetizers, to last through 5:30PM. From 5:30 to 5:45PM, a ceremony will commence, in which the names of those who have died of the virus will be spoken, along with the words of remembrance. From 6:00 to 7:00PM, a candlelight procession will walk from The LGBTQ Center to Bluff Park.
Even though attitudes surrounding the virus have come a long way, Morales said more needs to be done, as living with the stigma of HIV alone, the precursor to AIDS that is actually an entirely different disease, impacts one’s life in huge ways.
“People aren’t afraid of HIV anymore, which is a good thing don’t get me wrong,” said Morales. “What is difficult in the line of work that I do is getting people to understand the severity of living with HIV. Yes, you live a long, healthy, ‘normal’ life like those who are healthy and HIV-negative, but the impact that HIV has on one’s life is greater than anyone can imagine.”