Battle fatigue: Pasadena area AIDS activists struggle to keep the fight going 30 years later
It was here that physician and UCLA professor of medicine Michael Gottlieb became one of the first in the medical community to identify and classify AIDS in a 1981 report to the Centers for Disease Control. The city formed an AIDS Taskforce to study the needs of those living with HIV/AIDS, and All Saints Church had started the Pasadena AIDS Service Center to support individuals and families affected by it. By 1991, the Pasadena Public Health Department had opened Andrew Escajeda Comprehensive Care Services to provide outpatient care to HIV-infected individuals.
This year marks a milestone in AIDS history — it was 30 years ago this June 5 that HIV/AIDS was officially classified as a rare lung infection by the CDC.
The Rev. George Regas, rector emeritus at Pasadena’s All Saints Church, recalled a time when large gatherings turned out for the church’s annual AIDS mass. “We put it together to bring in people’s consciousness the real tragedy we were experiencing with AIDS in larger Pasadena,” Regas said. “People became aware of what was happening all around.”
In 1990, Pasadena ranked fifth in California for HIV incidence per 100,000 people, with 146 people infected and 88 fatalities, according to an Oct, 11, 1990 Los Angeles Times article. Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health estimates there are 62,800 people in the county living with HIV/AIDS — 13,500 of whom don’t know they’re infected. In San Gabriel Valley, there are 2,981 people who’ve contracted the disease.
In 1987, under the aegis of All Saints Church, Regas helped start the AIDS Service Center as a telephone helpline where people could leave questions and concerns on an answering machine. A flood of calls came in, he recalls, and within one year, the church had raised enough money to open a brick and mortar center.
Today, the center, located at 909 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, supports more than 1,000 clients living with the disease and offers services to another 4,000 residents in the form of HIV/AIDS 101 education programs and testing, according to Director of Marketing and Development Anthony Guthmiller.
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