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On World AIDS Day, Phoenix highlights efforts to end deadly disease by 2030

(Flickr/Thirteen Of Clubs)
LISTEN: On World AIDS Day, Phoenix highlights efforts to end AIDS by 2030

PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix highlighted its commitment to end AIDS by 2030 in honor of World AIDS Day.

Speaking at an event on Friday at Phoenix City Hall, Councilman Daniel Valenzuela said Phoenix will reach its goal of ending AIDS by getting more people tested, increasing access to care and eliminating the stigma surrounding the deadly disease.

For Valenzuela, the issue is personal. He lost his oldest brother, Manuel, to HIV and AIDS in 1993.

“He was late to get tested,” he said, speaking about his brother. “He was fearful of being tested. And when he got the results, he didn’t share them because he was afraid of being stigmatized.”

Valenzuela described his brother as his “first role model” and as a “protector” who taught his siblings to always be kind to others.

He said his brother took so long to share the diagnosis with his family because he was afraid of the social stigma his family would face. He feared they would face rejection from others.

“There’s less fear now, and we’re thankful for that,” Valenzuela said. “But there’s still some out there and that’s why this conversation is so important.”

Valenzuela is co-chair of the Fast Track Cities Initiative in Phoenix. The worldwide initiative launched in 2014 to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. More than 70 cities are part of the initiative, including 13 from the United States.

Glen Spencer, executive director of Aunt Rita’s Foundation, said personal stories like Valenzuela’s “are really impactful” and encouraged others to get tested.

Spencer also shared his experience of getting diagnosed with HIV in 2002. He said with the help of his family and various community organizations, he was able to get the care he needed. Since then, he has been encouraging others with HIV to seek help.

“There is no reason why somebody who is HIV positive has to go untreated and cannot live a full life and be perfectly healthy,” he said.

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