In an emblematic gesture, Santa Clara County gears up to mark the 35th anniversary of World AIDS Day. With a string of events spanning from November 28 to December 1, this year's theme, "Let Communities Lead," spearheaded by UNAIDS, focuses on the pivotal role of individuals impacted by HIV in the pandemic's endgame.
As part of the commemoration, the public is invited to participate and pay homage to the lives affected by HIV and AIDS. In a heartbreaking statistic, over 36 million people globally succumb to AIDS-related illnesses. Santa Clara County, in particular, houses 3,770 individuals living with HIV as of 2022, with a disparity highlighting the reality that Hispanic and Latino demographics, though only comprising 25 percent of the population, bear 60 percent of new HIV diagnoses, as reported by the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.
Local heroes such as Gordon Bowman, Chair of the Santa Clara County HIV Commission, lead efforts to combat this crisis. "World AIDS Day is important but also bittersweet for me... Today, with the different hats that I wear, both as a nurse with a specialty in HIV/AIDS and my involvement with the HIV Commission, I feel blessed to be... It is amazing the advances we have made over the years in the treatment options for HIV and that it has become very easily controllable now, and no one has to die from this disease anymore! The HIV Commission is always looking for community members to help lead the continuing fight for everything HIV," Bowman earnestly expressed in a statement obtained by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
Advancements aren't stalled; the HIV and Aging Program has been a beacon for those over 50 affected by HIV, providing them with invaluable assistance from medical services to peer-to-peer support. Dr. Akanksha Vaidya, Assistant Health Officer and HIV/STI Controller at the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, emphasizes, "The growing population of older adults living with HIV and AIDS is a testament to the improved medication and services available, which increase life expectancy." These ventures manifest from thorough community consultations and are devised to ensure that individuals with HIV lead longer, healthier lives, according to the county's statement.
On a further note, the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center rejoices in hosting the AIDS Quilt and Candlelight Vigil, recognizing long-term HIV survivors and keeping the narrative of the AIDS epidemic alive for education's sake. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte echoes the sentiment of ongoing advocacy, affirming their dedication to HIV/AIDS care and education. "This and every #WorldAIDSDay, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and fellow community partners reaffirm our commitment to protect and expand HIV/AIDS health care and education as part of sexual health and reproductive rights programs," remarked Stacy Cross, President & CEO, in comments shared by the health organization.
Enthusiasts and allies may find schedules and more on how to get involved at sccphd.org/WorldAidsDay, and are welcome to support events ranging from city proclamations to panels and vigils.