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World AIDS Day Vigil to be Held in Todos Santos

The Rainbow Community Center will host a vigil in Todos Santos Plaza Saturday evening to observe World AIDS Day.

A group will light candles in Todos Santos Plaza Saturday evening to remember those lost to AIDS and honor those still fighting.

The vigil starts at 8 p.m. and is hosted by the Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County (RCC) on World AIDS Day each year, which is observed on Dec. 1.

Mourners and supporters are invited to bring pictures of loved ones they wish to remember or honor, and candles and light refreshments will be provided.

For more information, email jimmy@rainbowcc.org or visit the Rainbow Community Center's Facebook page. If bad weather persists, the event will be moved across the street to the Rainbow Community Center at 2118 Willow Pass Road, Ste 500.

During the day, RCC's thrift store on Bonifacio Street, Everything Under the Rainbow, will hold a sale and enter customers into a raffle for every $5 spent, with a prize of $50 credit in store.

Contra Costa County Health Services will also be recognizing World AIDS Day with free HIV testing and counseling at the Delta Bay Church of Christ, located at 4011 Railroad Ave. in Pittsburg, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The HIV tests offered are free, confidential and yield preliminary results in only 20 minutes, said Obiel Leyva, a community education and testing manager for Contra Costa Health Services' HIV/AIDS and STD program.

In 2011, 1,907 Contra Costa County residents reported that they were living with HIV/AIDS, up from 1,797 four years earlier, according to county documents. Leyva said county health figures from Dec. 31, 2011 -- the latest data available -- show that people of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

Although black and Latino residents represent just 30 percent of the county's population, these groups accounted for about 60 percent of new HIV cases reported last year, he said.

In addition, about one in five people infected with the virus are unaware that they are HIV-positive, Leyva said.

Statistics also show that new HIV infection rates are rising in younger county residents, with 42 percent of those newly infected with HIV in 2010 and 2011 between the ages of 13 and 29.

Leyva said the county is heightening its focus on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts for younger residents as well as for people of color.

Those seeking more information about free HIV testing or HIV/AIDS care in Contra Costa County are encouraged to visit www.cchealth.org/aids or to call the county's HIV hotline at (800) 287-0200.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Are you remembering or honoring someone on World AIDS Day? Share your memories and well wishes in the comments below.

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