Long Beach officials continue to ignore city’s HIV problem

HIV Long Beach

Loved ones who died from HIV-AIDS were remembered during the 2018 World AIDS Day event in Long Beach at Bluff Park on Dec. 1. Photo: Michael Buitron.


World AIDS Day was last week, but you wouldn’t have known that based on how Long Beach officials ignored the epidemic.

For more than 30 years, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — among others — have used Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, as a day to remember those who have died from HIV-AIDS.

It’s also the perfect opportunity for public servants and officials to announce strategic plans to end HIV, which is still very much a major health issue in Long Beach and beyond.

Long Beach has some of the highest HIV infection rates of gay men, particularly Black and Latino men, in Los Angeles County and the state, according to data from the city’s Department of Health and Human Services.

One would think those statistics would be a wake-up call for city officials to do something of substance about ending new infections.

For example, World AIDS Day would have been the perfect opportunity for the city to announce an investment of city dollars into comprehensive health initiatives and programs to educate and prevent HIV in the gay community.

But nobody did that. It was another example of failed leadership from the health department, the City Council, and Mayor Robert Garcia, who identifies as gay.

It’s worth noting that Long Beach has had a high rate of new HIV infections for more than a decade. During that time, nobody from either the city or the health department has ever developed an in-depth strategy for HIV prevention and treatment for gay men.

Nobody from the city council has ever pushed for such a policy.

Of course, council members will brag about how they participate in the Long Beach Pride Parade or grab a microphone any chance they get to claim they are allies of the community, but those actions do nothing to address HIV in the city.

What did the city do to recognize World AIDS Day?

The health department partnered with several community groups for a resource fair at Houghton Park in North Long Beach. The event also included people living with HIV sharing their stories.

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Garcia retweeted the post on social media. That’s it.

Also, city landmarks were illuminated in red “to remember those who have lost lives to HIV/AIDS and stand with those living with, or impacted by the virus,” the city tweeted.

That’s comforting to know. However, when the lights are on, but actions don’t support the words, the words are phony.

In other words, the lights are on and nobody is home.

It really was the least they could do.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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