Michael Gottlieb often runs into people who tell him they distinctly remember where they were when they found out about AIDS.
It stands out in their minds like a historic U.S. event. Gottlieb, a Pasadena resident, was the first doctor to identify the disease in 1981.
Back then, no one was even thinking about epidemic diseases, he told a crowd at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Travis Auditorium on Saturday, which is World AIDS Day.
“We thought that epidemic diseases, at least in developed countries, were behind us, a thing of the past,” he said. "No one could have possibly imagined the scope of today’s HIV/AIDS pandemic around the world.”
Today, about 34 million people worldwide are living with the disease, and some 30 million infected people have died. About 1 in 5 people are unaware they are infected.
Gottlieb joined other health leaders at Fuller, who spoke about the progress doctors have made in treating and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in recent years. The symposium was sponsored by Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance and presented by “Malcolm in the Middle” actress Jane Kaczmarek, who lives in Pasadena.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the sponsoring organization.
Eric Walsh, the director and health officer for the City of Pasadena’s Health Department, said a culture of silence — especially within the African American community — associated with the disease allows it to grow.
“The disease disproportionately affects African Americans in the United States,” he said. “This reality is a reality that is bigger than the virus.”
Along with increasing services offered to infected people, Walsh said removing society’s stigma of the virus will help to prevent new cases.
“This disease does very well among people who have given up, who think society has given up on them,” he said. “We’ve got to empower people.”
-- Tiffany Kelly, Times Community News