SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County's Public Health Department marked World AIDS Day with a vigil at the AIDS Commemorative Grove in Guadalupe River Park.
Officials say while great strides are being made against HIV and AIDS, some 35,000 people become infected in the US each year.
A flag raising at the Santa Clara County Administrative building was also held later in the afternoon
"We not only remember those who've lost their lives to AIDS but really honor and celebrate those who fought to get us where we are today," said Dr. Akansha Vaidya, assistant public health officer and HIV/STI controller for the county of Santa Clara Public Health.
World AIDS Day: Marty's Place gives hope to those living with HIV
Where we are today is a long way from where we were years ago, like in 1982, the year David Morse became positive with HIV.
Treatments available today have allowed him to live normally.
"Now people are living undetectable, untransmutable for normal lifespans. I mean, it can't get a lot better than that," Morse said before quickly adding. "Well, it can get better if we get rid of the disease, but we're getting close to having things be as normal as they can."
Yet, in some ways, experts say we're still a long way from where we can be.
The county's public health department said 3,770 people are living with HIV in Santa Clara County as of the most recent data available in 2022.
The department said that, like many other diseases and health conditions, HIV data show racial inequities, especially for one demographic.
"Last year in 2022, we had 165 new HIV diagnosis in the county. Sixty percent of these were among Hispanic and Latino community," Vaidya said. "There could be a variety of reasons why we're seeing that but probably one of the main reasons is lack of access to care because of cost or insurance purposes."
That demographic isn't just being disproportionately impacted in Santa Clara County.
It's seen throughout the Bay Area and nationally according to U.S. statistics.
Dr. Maria Lopez is a pharmacist and president of Mission Wellness Pharmacy in San Francisco.
In addition to insurance purposes, she says the disproportionate numbers can be traced to education access.
"HIV prevention, what patients can do, or individuals can do to prevent and protect themselves from acquiring HIV," Lopez said.
Lopez has been part of work that's increased education and resources throughout the state.
Mission Wellness was the first pharmacy in California to provide medications that prevent HIV, like PREP, directly to community members.
"This is a demonstration project that was started in San Francisco with the health department and our site, and has led to a state bill and a national model that has been expanded in other states," she said.
Even with the advancements made, public health officials are fast to point out that there is still more work ahead.
"World AIDS Day reminds us that the fight is not over," Vaidya said. "And we really need to work with the community break barriers to access to testing and treatment."
To find out more about low cost or free testing and treatment options available, click here.
If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live