Community members will gather by the beach Saturday in a push to end the discrimination, infection and deaths caused by AIDS.
The Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee is hosting a World AIDS Day Awareness and Remembrance event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a candle-light ceremony at 5:30 p.m. at Main Beach.
“The goal of the event is not only to memorialize and remember those who have died of AIDS, but also to educate the public,” said Dennis Junka, vice chairman of the Laguna Beach HIV Advisory Committee.
The event, which has been going on for the past 20 years, was designed to raise awareness that the disease is still an issue and educate residents on prevention, how AIDS is contracted and what services are available for those that have it, said Sarah Kasman, executive director of Shanti Orange County.
It is with those tools that the goal of zero deaths, infections and discrimination can be reached, and the more people who know they are infected moves the community closer to that goal, Kasman said.
“Information and education are a powerful tool,” she said.
The Laguna Beach Community Clinic will provide free anonymous HIV tests that take 20 minutes for results, Junka said, and professionals will be on hand to help anyone who tests positive.
“We believe that everyone should be tested,” he said.
Besides education, the day will also be a family-friendly community event with children’s crafts, live music, refreshments and poetry readings.
There will be AIDS Memorial Quilt Panels on display and names read of those who have died from the disease.
“It really was designed to honor people. It’s a remembrance day, a remembrance of people who have died of AIDS,” Kasman said.
To prepare for the event, Laguna Beach High School students on Tuesday hung about 300 red ribbons along Forest Avenue and Ocean Avenue that are decorated with black ties bearing the names of Lagunans who have died from the disease.
The advisory community has also issued brochures aimed at women older than 50 and teenagers — the largest demographics of concern — on the disease, Junka said.
The committee is the only city-sponsored advisory committee in the state, Kasman said.
“We found that a lot of people, especially in the last 10 years, now that people are living longer with AIDS, have loosened awareness and what they do to protect themselves,” Junka said. “They don’t use protection.”
If You Go
What: World AIDS Day Awareness and Remembrance
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a candle-lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, with American Board of Ob-Gyn Diplomate Dr. Jane Bening speaking.
Where: Main Beach, 335 S. Coast Hwy.
Also: For the next three weeks, Bening will guest host the “Real Lives in Laguna” show on the community radio station KX 93.5 FM from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.