On this World AIDS Day, the Los Angeles LGBT Center commemorates 40 years of the HIV epidemic and commits its continuing efforts to end AIDS.
“It has been 40 years since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first reported a mysterious illness among five young gay men in Los Angeles that would later become known as AIDS. This report would be followed by a devastating loss of life that, sadly, continues today,” said Center Executive Director Joe Hollendoner. “This World AIDS Day, we remember those who died due to government inaction rooted in homophobia, celebrate the continued resiliency of long-term survivors, express gratitude to the HIV providers, researchers, and advocates, as well as affirm our commitment to eliminating the stigma that enables the HIV epidemic to continue.”
According to the CDC, more than 700,000 Americans have died from AIDS-related complications and more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reports there are approximately 57,700 people living with HIV and 1,300 new HIV transmissions each year; however, 5,700 people living with HIV in the County are unaware of their status and just 60% of people living with HIV are virally suppressed.
“Ending the HIV epidemic in Los Angeles County is an achievable goal thanks to advancements like PrEP and treatment as prevention,” said Hollendoner. “However, disparities in HIV outcomes driven by institutional racism, transphobia, and homophobia continue to be an undeniable reality. That is why the Center’s efforts to expand access to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment across Los Angeles through our Center South, Mi Centro, and Trans Wellness Center sites are essential to this goal.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also reports there is a disproportionate number of Latinx and Black males living with HIV—some of whom are undiagnosed or not aware of their status—and transgender people of all races are the most disproportionately impacted gender group in the County.
“The fight against the HIV epidemic is not over. We must address the still outsized impact of HIV/AIDS on Black and Latinx gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and transgender women, and we must do it by providing a neutral approach to care for HIV education, testing, or treatment—not only to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDS in our communities but also to destigmatize how people view and treat those living with, or who are at-risk of acquiring, HIV,” said David Flores, Senior Program Manager at Center South. “Testing and prevention programs that are by and for communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, like those offered at Center South and our other sites, are critical to ending the epidemic. I hope, on this World AIDS Day, our community takes advantage of these services. Together, we have the power to end AIDS.”
For more information on the Center’s HIV prevention, testing, and health services throughout Los Angeles County, visit lalgbtcenter.org/HIV.
The Center’s work to end AIDS is made possible by the vital funds raised as part of the annual AIDS/LifeCycle event now returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. The seven-day, 545-mile bicycling event will take place June 5–11, 2022. Tonight AIDS/LifeCycle hosts its annual candlelight vigil honoring World AIDS Day. For more information about AIDS/LifeCycle, or to join the free World AIDS Day virtual candlelight vigil, visit aidslifecycle.org.