Free HIV testing, vigils held for World AIDS Day


Pelosi, counselor honored at National AIDS Memorial event

More than a million Americans are living with AIDS right now. The Centers for Disease Control estimates one out of five don't even know it.

Several hundred people observed the day at the National Aids Memorial. They honored Nancy Pelosi for her work in the fight against AIDS.

They also awarded a scholarship to a woman who teaches teens about aids and safe sex.

"I'm a bridge between the older generation and the youth because they'd rather listen to me," scholarship recipient Nzinga Hyacinthe said. "I don't know any youth who'd want to sit down and talk to a 30 or 40 year old about sex or HIV or condoms. So I'm that bridge and I make them feel more comfortable."

The event also kicked off a text-to-donate campaign to raise money for the National AIDS Memorial.

To donate $10 to the memorial, text "heal" to 501-501.

Events held around the world calling attention to HIV-AIDS

In Georgia, state health officials were using social media for a Twitter chat about HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment options that are available.

The city of Long Beach, Calif., was offering free HIV testing, along with community forums and film screenings to help raise awareness of the disease.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement urging people to be tested for HIV, and voicing his hope that the stigma surrounding the disease will be dropped, making way for more patients to be treated.

The World AIDS Day 2012 observance was marked with hope in sub-Saharan Africa, as the United Nations reports that deaths there from AIDS-related causes have dropped by 32 percent over the last five years, to 1.2 million reported in 2011

Bay Area vigil, free HIV testing planned for World AIDS Day

In Contra Costa County, free HIV testing and counseling were offered Saturday morning.

Free HIV testing and counseling was held at the Delta Bay Church of Christ at 4011 Railroad Ave. in Pittsburg from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Rainbow Community Center, an organization that provides services and activities for Contra Costa County's gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning, or LGBTQ, community, is hosting a candlelight vigil to honor people living with AIDS and those who have died from the illness at Todos Santos Park in Concord at 8 p.m.

The HIV tests offered were free, confidential and yielded preliminary results in only 20 minutes, said Obiel Leyva, a community education and testing manager for Contra Costa Health Services' HIV/AIDS and STD program.

Staff members were also on hand to provide information and resources to patients, and a panel of speakers at the event discussed their own experiences with HIV/AIDS.

Leyva said the event falls on one of many awareness days throughout the year when Contra Costa Health Services offers free testing, "As you provide information, I think folks start to realize, 'I might be at risk,'" Leyva said. "You don't know until you get tested -- you can't tell by looking at someone."

In 2011, 1,907 Contra Costa County residents reported that they were living with HIV/AIDS, up from 1,797 four years earlier, according to county documents.

Leyva said county health figures from Dec. 31, 2011 -- the latest data available -- show that people of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

Although black and Latino residents represent just 30 percent of the county's population, these groups accounted for about 60 percent of new HIV cases reported last year, he said.

In addition, about one in five people infected with the virus are unaware that they are HIV-positive, Leyva said.

Statistics also show that new HIV infection rates are rising in younger county residents, with 42 percent of those newly infected with HIV in 2010 and 2011 between the ages of 13 and 29.

Leyva said the county is heightening its focus on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts for younger residents as well as for people of color.

Those seeking more information about free HIV testing or HIV/AIDS care in Contra Costa County are encouraged to visit or to call the county's HIV hotline at (800) 287-0200.

(ABC7 News and The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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