SoCal honors lives lost on World AIDS Day

Sunday, December 2, 2018
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In Lincoln Heights, solemn music accompanied the reflections at the Las Memorias AIDS Monument for World AIDS Day.

LINCOLN HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Southern Californians joined people around the world marking World AIDS Day with sober remembrances of lives lost and reflections on how far society has advanced dealing with the stigma of the disease.

In Lincoln Heights, solemn music accompanied the reflections at the Las Memorias AIDS Monument.

"What happened 25 years ago is that you tested HIV positive and then a lot of times you family disowned you," said Michael Holdaway of Lincoln Heights.

The stigma of living with AIDS or being diagnosed with HIV may not be completely gone but The Wall-Las Memorias Project has brought a tangible, visible reminder of how AIDS struck this Latino community.

Now every year it brings together people like Brenda Lainfiesta-Watson. For her, the fight against AIDS has left its mark.

"My main reason for being here is a way of honoring my friends who passed away. I've had many friends who I've lost," she said.

Since AIDS was first observed in the 1980s, the sheer number of lives lost is overwhelming.

Last year, more than 2,500 people died every day from HIV-related illnesses.

A record 36.9 million people worldwide were living with the virus that causes AIDS.

Richard Zaldivar founded the group behind the Lincoln Heights event 25 years ago.

"We built an AIDS monument for people who died from AIDS," Zaldivar said. "It's the only one of its kind in the country. To address the stigma, the silence around HIV/AIDS. I think it's important for people to know that HIV/AIDS has not gone away."

This year's testimonies and prayers are more hopeful than in the past. But until HIV and AIDS are eradicated, a night like this will remain bittersweet.