Homeless LGBT youth and HIV advances discussed on LA Pride program

A week after the LA Pride parade, Newsmakers explored some of the issues behind it. Guests were Mitch O'Farrell, L.A. City Council 13th District, Madonna Cacciatore, executive director Christopher Street West, L.A. Pride, and Craig Thompson, CEO of APLA Health.

O'Farrell chairs the city's Homelessness and Poverty Committee. Of the 59,000 in this year's count, nearly 9,000 are younger than 24 and nearly half identify as LGBTQ, a vulnerable population.

He said, "In the most recent homeless count, 15% of homeless are 25 and under, and then another 9% are underage so it's very serious. We have a lot of runaways who come to Los Angeles, Hollywood, etc, but we work with the non-profits that serve them."

MORE: Homeless count surges by 12 percent in Los Angeles County

He recently led a delegation bringing material support for LGBTQ refugees housed at a shelter in Tijuana, saying there are very few undocumented homeless here.

"The homeless population of undocumented in Los Angeles is tiny. It's infinitesimal, less than 1%. But, we know that we have pride, we have the resources, we have the institutions that support this community on this side of the border. In Mexico, not so much the case. And that's why I lead a delegation south of the border to offer help and services," he said.

O'Farrell acknowledges there's a delay in the billion-dollar HHH homeless housing-but he says it's underway.

"We have over 50 projects approved, funded and under construction that will house about 7,000 homeless individuals in a couple of years. So we know there's been a delay because we have oversight, fiduciary responsibility. People will see relief in terms of the homeless numbers on the streets," he said.

APLA Health provides health care for the LGBTQ community and people affected by HIV. Thompson said, "We can end the epidemic basically through two strategies. One is called 'U equals U,' which is undetectable equals untransmittable, which means if we get somebody and we get them on HIV medications and they take their medications, not only do they thrive, but they cannot transmit HIV to another person."

Thornton said, "We're also able to use that new medication for people who are HIV negative, but at high risk, and they can take that medication and protect themselves as well. We're going to be able to reduce the number of new infections in Los Angeles County every year over the next 10 or 15 years until basically AIDS just sputters out in L.A. and in many other places in the US."

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Cacciatore added, "We've gone from watching people die horrific deaths and having the government turn its back on them to seeing people live healthy full lives with HIV."

APLA Health also stages AIDS Walk LA, which has raised $88 million so far. The next walk is planned for Oct. 20.

More information available here for APLA Health, AIDS Walk LA and LA Pride.
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