Thousands marched in the 35th annual AIDS walk at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, raising funds and awareness for the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
City officials, activists and celebrities joined the community in the four-mile walk that kicked off with an aerobic warm-up, followed by opening ceremonies. The theme for the 2019 walk was “AIDS Has Met Its March.”
Over the past 34 years, AIDS Walk Los Angeles has raised more than $88 million to combat HIV and AIDS. The funds raised at the event sustain APLA Health’s care, prevention and advocacy programs for the over 60,000 men and women living with the disease in Los Angeles County, as well as other local HIV/AIDS service organizations.
APLA Health is a non-profit organization that seeks to achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV.
Alex Medina, director of communications at APLA Health, said that in addition to wellness benefits, the nonprofit also offers behavioral health services, not just for people living with HIV, but for the entire community.
Ajana Orozco, a member of the Black Latino Aids Project at UCLA, said there have been big changes since the AIDS and HIV epidemic began.
"I contracted HIV in 1992, so 27 years ago. It was a death sentence back then," Orozco said. "I never expected to be alive today but here I am, a UCLA student trying to make my way to law school."
A new California law will go into effect in 2020 that will make obtaining pre and post exposure medication easier.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the legislation on Oct. 7, enabling pharmacists to dispense HIV prevention pills to patients without a doctor’s prescription.
"The more people that are on it, the more people who have access to it, the better our chances are of reducing new infections in Los Angeles County," Medina said.