SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Vigils, ceremonies, and free screening clinics were planned throughout the Bay Area Saturday, to mark World AIDS Day.
In San Francisco, ‘Paint the Castro Red’ kicked off at several locations in the Castro District. Local events included a screening of ‘How to Survive the Plague’ at 6 p.m., at the Castro Theatre. Also, a candlelight vigil was held at 8 p.m., at Harvey Milk.
World AIDS Day observances took place in the National AIDS Memorial Grove (The Grove) located in Golden Gate park at the intersection of Bowling Green and Nancy Pelosi Drive. Congresswoman Pelosi was on hand to accept the National Leadership Recognition award.
AT&T launched a month-long, text-to-donate campaign, “A Time For Hope; A Time for Healing” Saturday, making it possible for any mobile subscriber regardless of carrier to simply text the word “HEAL” to “501501″ to make a $10.00 charitable donation to the National AIDS Memorial.
Across the bay, several community groups were set to turn out Saturday to provide HIV testing and information.
The groups included Contra Costa County Health Services and the Rainbow Community Center in Concord.
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.
At 8 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, hosted 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 Saturday were free, confidential and yield 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 on hand to provide information and resources to patients, and a panel of speakers at the event will discuss their own experiences with HIV/AIDS.
Leyva said the event fell 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,’” he said.
“You don’t know until you get tested — you can’t tell by looking at someone,” he added.
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 were encouraged to visit http://www.cchealth.org/aids or to call the county’s HIV hotline at (800) 287-0200.
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