What a remarkable and important day it was here in Laguna as the community and the Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee gathered at Main Beach to honor World AIDS Day.
The city's appointed Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee, which includes Shanti, AIDS Service Foundation (ASF), AIDS CareTeams In Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), Laguna Beach High School, community members and the Laguna Beach Community Clinic (LBCC) placed hundreds of memorial ribbons throughout the downtown and the cobblestone area, offered free HIV testing, provided educational tables and a candlelit ceremony to honor loved ones lost to AIDS.
People came from distinctly varying walks of life, ranging in age from 14 to 60 years, to sit together on the cobblestones of Main Beach and wait to take the free HIV test being given by the Laguna Beach Community Clinic.
The Laguna Beach Community Clinic tested 27 people that day and gave out 28 coupons for future testing at the clinic. These participants bring the awareness and willingness that is vital to putting a halt to the HIV epidemic.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates there are 40 million people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide. Most of them do not know they carry HIV and may be spreading the virus to others. According to the CDC, it is estimated thatone-quarter of all people with HIV in the United States do not know they are carrying the virus.
The beautiful closing candlelit service conducted by Rev. Wheeler and Rev. Lobb provided an inspirational message of hope and respect for those gathered to honor and remember their loved ones lost to AIDS. The most emotionally moving moment of the evening came when the people gathered closer together, each person holding a candle and speaking the names of those they personally lost to AIDS.
Testing and education are an essential part of what the Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee contributes in their efforts to end this devastating epidemic.
You can join forces to put a stop to this unnecessary killer in the New Year by attending The Laguna Beach Advisory Committee's AIDS 101 class on Saturday, Jan. 27, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Neighborhood Congregational Church.
Come learn from one of the leading experts in the field, the award winning, very engaging speaker and educator, Lynne Gabriel. This free, educational community event is also one part of the AIDS CareTeam training.
For more information, call Karen O'Connell, ACTION Program Director at (949) 683-5683 or visit www.AIDSACTION.us.