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World AIDS Day commemorations around Los Angeles


LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Officials and activists are encouraging the public to be tested for the virus that causes AIDS, increase their awareness of the disease and contact the White House and Congress in connection with today’s World AIDS Day.

The Los Angeles city government will hold its commemoration of World AIDS Day at the JW Marriott at LA Live, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa among the scheduled speakers.

“I urge every Angeleno to get educated and get tested,” Villaraigosa told City News Service. “We all share a responsibility in the fight to eliminate HIV by working together to raise awareness and move past the stereotypes and stigma.”

Other World AIDS Day events in Los Angeles County include a health fair at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center beginning at 10 a.m., the 17th annual Noche De Las Memorias community event at The Wall-Las Memorias AIDS Monument at 3600 N. Mission Road in Lincoln Park, which begins at 4 p.m. and will include free HIV testing, music, prayer and the unveiling of recently added names on the memorial panels, and a candlelight vigil beginning at 6 p.m. at West Hollywood City Hall.

In his World AIDS Day proclamation, President Barack Obama declared, “World AIDS Day serves as an important reminder that HIV/AIDS has not gone away. More than one million Americans currently live with HIV/AIDS in the United States and more than 56,000 become infected each year.”

Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the public “should e-mail or call the president and say `Sustain America’s commitment to AIDS’ and contact your senator or congressman and say `We think this is a higher priority than many of the other things than the government spends money on.”’

“There’s been a lot of disappointment with the Obama administration,” said Weinstein, whose foundation bills itself as the nation’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care. “The funding commitments that were made in the campaign are not being kept. So far, this has not been the change we would believe in.”

According to the White House, the administration’s focus is on outcomes, such as lives saved, and not just on dollars spent, citing the near doubling of people on antiretrovial treatment from 1.7 million to 3.2 million.

Obama has proposed the largest funding request for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief for the budget for the 2011 fiscal year and put forward a $63 billion Global Health Initiative to combat HIV and AIDS, according to the White House.

Weinstein described the AIDS-related efforts by Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush as “groundbreaking.”

“Bush embraced the issue of AIDS in a major way,” Weinstein said. “It was so liberating. We have five million people in the developing world who are being treated for HIV. Millions of people are alive today because of what he began.”