WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA (FOX 11) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates around 36.9 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In West Hollywood there were a number of events to celebrate World AIDS Day, the effort to reduce that number and remember the people who lost their lives to the disease.
FOX11's Christine O'Donnell has the stories of two men living with AIDS.
A wave of people made their way down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Their purpose to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.
“We’re out here remembering friends who didn’t have the advantages we have in 2015," AIDS survivor Jeffrey Drew said.
Drew says he was diagnosed in 1988. " It's s been 27 years and at that time, they gave you a big bag of AZT and 6 months to live. Everyone was catching the bus back then," Drew said.
Fellow AIDS survivor Anil Patel says he was diagnosed HIV positive in 2000, with an AIDS diagnoses in 2002.
"By 2006, I had reached 18 T-cells and full blown aids. Today, you’re still considered to have an AIDS diagnoses, that doesn’t go away, but I'm well over 800 T-cells and I'm healthy, undetectable, I'm living. I’m no longer in fear of not making it through the next day," Patel said.
Being diagnosed more than a decade apart, they both have different stories of how the disease affected them, but agree recent advancements in medication has played a huge part in their survival. Now, Dr. Joseph Cadden says there is a new drug that he believes may be the key to ending the AIDS epidemic.
“We here today also promoting the awareness of pre-exposure prophylaxis for persons who have high risk for hiv infection. They take a pill a day to 99.9% reduce possibility of HIV infection," Dr. Cadden said.
Along with medical advancements, Patel and Drew say "hope" helped them battle the disease.
"I lost all my friends, so hear I am 27 years later, with an amazing group of men and women, my chosen family that really make a difference," Cadden said.
Dr. Cadden says even with all the advancements there's still a stigma when it comes to testing, but that's what World AIDS Day is all about, raising awareness of the disease and celebrating live, especially this time of year.