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A Disease That Still Claims Lives

By Justin Swanson, Special to the Independent

 

Fog cast an appropriately ghostly gloom over last year’s vigil.

Red and black ribbons were wrapped about the circumference of Laguna’s downtown trees this week ahead of World AIDS Day, Saturday, Dec. 1, a day dedicated to   remembering those lost and building awareness.

Members of the Laguna Beach High School HIV Outreach club and the city’s HIV Advisory Committee affixed ribbons with nametags, memorializing residents of Laguna and elsewhere in the county afflicted by the disease who succumbed to its dire effects. Per capita, Laguna Beach at one time led the nation for its infection rate.

“With this generation, there is the possibility that we can stop it from spreading,” said  Joyce Swaving, secretary of the advisory committee.  Indeed, the recurring theme of this year’s event is the notion of “getting to ground zero: zero new infections, zero deaths” and eventually no more disease.

In Laguna, a candle light ceremony will occur on Main Beach at 5 p.m. that day. Local musicians, Nick “I” of Common Sense, Sasha Evans and Douglas Miller and The Kenny Garcia Band will be performing between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. preceding the vigil, according to promoter Rick Conkey.

Student Nicholas Reikoff tied remembrance ribbons and names around downtown trees this past week. Photo by Justin Swanson

The members of the HIV Advisory Committee include LBHS students, Irvine’s AIDS Services Foundation, Laguna Shanti, and Laguna Beach Community Clinic, which will set up in tents on the Main Beach cobblestones to provide educational information and anonymous HIV testing and counseling.

HIV testing will be available at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic tent.  The results will be available in just 20 minutes. Free testing will start at 11 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

Student Nicholas Reikoff, head of the high school club, added that his group’s effort was “to remove the stigmatization around the disease. It is a problem for all of us and so we need to stick together.”

Head of the HIV Advisory Committee, Sarah Kasman beams when discussing the impact felt by the assistance of high school students. “They are engaging in what is becoming a ‘remote concept,’ and the more they learn, the more they can be the catalyst to stop, to put an end to the disease.”

She continues more gravely, “As the face of AIDs changes, the goal becomes to assist residents to understand the disease is changing but not going away. Every nine minutes, someone becomes HIV positive.”

For those who prefer testing at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic itself, hours are: Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m.; Wednesday, 2:30 to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to noon.

No appointment is needed at either location.

For further info: contact Capt. Jason Kravetz, liaison to the HIV Advisory Committee at 949 497-0307 or [email protected]

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