San Antonians will be among the millions of people around the globe who will be observing World AIDS Day on December 1.
The observance, which was started in 1988, is billed as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.
The U.S. government’s theme for World AIDS Day 2017 is “Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships.”
Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. More than 35 million people have died of AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
The prevalence of HIV in San Antonio is particularly pronounced. In September, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District sent out an email explaining, “In the past five years, the HIV epidemic has expanded in San Antonio, particularly among young gay and bisexual men. San Antonio is home to the largest ‘hot spot’ of new HIV infections in the United States.”
A “hot spot” represents a transmission cluster of cases where the virus in the infected individuals is of a genetically similar strain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are 16 such clusters in Texas with six of those in San Antonio, including one which includes 27 confirmed cases of HIV. Many of those infected in that cluster are young Hispanic men.
According to Metro Health, approximately 6,000 people are living with HIV in Bexar County. Nearly 10,000 have been diagnosed since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s.
Other statistics provided by Metro Health offer a profile of the epidemic in the San Antonio area.
- Bexar County had 360 new HIV diagnoses in 2016 – the highest number in recent years.
- The majority of people living with HIV in Bexar County (52.4 percent) are age 45 or older.
- 85 percent of those living with the virus in Bexar County are men and 15 percent are women.
- Ethnic breakdown of those living with HIV in Bexar County: 63 percent are Hispanic; 19 percent are white; 16 percent are black, and 2 percent represent a mix of other ethnicities.
- Age breakdown of those living with HIV in Bexar County: 52 percent are people 45 and older; 47 percent are ages 20-44. The remaining 1 percent comprises people 19 years and younger.
World AIDS Day Observances in San Antonio
Ceremony of Remembrance
The San Antonio AIDS Foundation will host a ceremony of remembrance on December 1 at 10 a.m. at it’s offices at 118 E. Grayson Street. The event, which is billed as a “ceremony which mourns those who have passed from AIDS and honors all people living with HIV/AIDS,” will include a moment of silence, the release of 200 red balloons and a 21-dove salute — the release of 21 “homing” White Rock doves.
World AIDS Day Collaborative Interfaith Gathering
The San Antonio World AIDS Day Collaborative presents an evening of events on December 1 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Woodlawn Pointe, 702 Donaldson Ave. There will be informational booths and free HIV testing. A service of remembrance and hope begins at 6:30 p.m. with the theme, “We Remember, We Live, We Hope.” The service includes performances by the Live Oak Singers, the Pride of SA Show Band, remarks by guest speakers, and a special dramatic presentation. The evening is hosted by the Live Oak Singers, Unity of San Antonio, BEAT AIDS, Living Church at Woodlawn Pointe, Dignity San Antonio and ACTS HIV Ministry.
World AIDS Day: Free HIV Testing
Project: H.O.T. and UNIFY San Antonio will be at the Sexology Institute, 707 South St. Mary’s, from 7 to 11 p.m. to offer free, rapid HIV testing. Counselors will be available to answer any questions. The San Antonio Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be handing out free “pleasure supplies” as well as seeking participants for a fun, interactive art project in front of the Sexology Institute.