Bay Area groups pay tribute on World AIDS Day

A South Korean man walks past a signboard set up as part of an AIDS awareness campaign in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Nov. 30, 2009. World AIDS day is Tuesday, Dec. 1, marked to increase awareness of the sexually-transmitted fatal disease. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

December 1, 2009 1:36:12 PM PST
Bay Area organizations are spending the 21st annual World AIDS Day urging people to get tested and remembering those who have lost their lives to the epidemic.

In San Francisco, the nation's only federally designated national AIDS memorial is hosting a remembrance ceremony Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Gary Pike, a spokesman for the event, estimated that nearly 300 people would gather in the meadow of the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park for a program that features music, speakers and awards to people who have worked to make inroads in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and the Voices Lesbian Choral Ensemble will perform, and panels from the world AIDS quilt and mementos left in the grove by victims' loved ones will be on display, Pike said.

"There are a lot of people who are remembering their children, their brothers, their cousins, their mothers, their fathers who have passed," he said. "It can be a very emotional and heartfelt gathering of people."

The United Nations estimates that 25 million people have died as a result of the AIDS epidemic, now in its third decade. Nearly 60 million people have been infected with HIV over the years. In San Francisco, one of the first U.S. cities where the epidemic gained notoriety, City Hall will be lit up in red to mark the day.

Many other events around the Bay Area are targeting specific community groups deemed at risk.

San Francisco's Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center is hosting a panel discussion on the challenges health educators face in preventing HIV among that group. The virus is highly stigmatized, creating a huge barrier to people getting tested, center spokesman David Stupplebeen said.

"Asians and Pacific Islanders don't perceive themselves to be at risk," he said. "That's somebody else's disease."

Asians make up 30 percent of San Francisco's population, and only 10 percent of HIV tests performed in the city, he said. In San Francisco, that group's incidence of HIV is six times greater than the national average, according to the center.

While prevention outreach typically targets black, white and Hispanic gay men, the number of new HIV infections among Asian and Pacific Islander men more than doubled between 2001 and 2006, according to the center.

The small amount of data available makes it difficult for health educators to effectively target the group, Stupplebeen said. The approximately 50 different native languages spoken within the group present an additional challenge.

"As things change, so does the way we target people," he said.

The center's event will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at the center's office at 730 Polk St. In addition to the panel discussion, the center is offering free confidential HIV and hepatitis B testing, with the results available in 20 minutes. The event is open to the public.

In Oakland, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. is reaching out to another at-risk community: black women.

A 4 p.m. news conference will kick off the organization's sixth annual billboard campaign. The campaign consists of 10 billboards and ads on two bus shelters in low- to moderate-income areas of Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond.

The news conference will be held at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. Representatives from the California Prevention and Education Project will also be on hand to administer oral HIV tests that require no needles and deliver results in 20 minutes.

In San Mateo County, community partners are sponsoring two health fairs today, at Skyline College in San Bruno and Serramonte Mall in Daly City. The Skyline College fair is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Serramonte fair will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The county will also unveil a red ribbon installation made up of one thousand origami paper cranes.


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