TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It's a day meant to bring awareness to an illness that affects millions of people around the world.
Thursday, Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, as of 2015, there are 17,349 people living with HIV/AIDS in the state. In Pima County, there are 2,729.
Tucsonan Philip Bossenbroek is one of those people. He was diagnosed with HIV, along with several other illnesses, in 2001 when he collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room.
He later found out that he got the virus when he helped a car accident victim and cut his hand. Unbeknownst to him, the victim's blood mixed with his.
It's since changed his life.
Bossenbroek has had to change his diet and exercise more. He also had to take lots of medication. Some of those pills had side effects that still affect him today. He said it has taken a while, but he has accepted his diagnosis and is trying to live the best life he can.
As a volunteer at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, SAAF, he is educating others all while working to remove the stigma that surrounds the disease.
SAAF is joining other Tucson organizations to put on an event Thursday to bring awareness and honor the people who have died fighting AIDS.
Organizers say the goal of the event was to have an open conversation about HIV and where the community stands in the fight against the epidemic.
"What we can do to prevent the continuation of the epidemic, and support those who are living with HIV. And provide care so that we can all live healthfully in our community," said Jai Smith with the World AIDS Day committee.
He also said a big part was also to celebrate the people who are living their lives with an HIV positive status in our community.
"Which includes discrimination within social settings, within employment settings, discrimination within housing settings," said Smith. "We're at this really interesting time where we have a lot to celebrate but we also have a lot of work to do in our community."
Fredo Moncada was among those who showed up to the event. Moncada said he found out he was HIV positive back in 2006.
"I had to make some drastic changes. I had to self accept that I have HIV. And that I had to do some research about it and get with the right people. Let my family know," Moncada said.
Moncada said it was a result of his drug use at the time. He said he's come a long way since then.
"It's been a good journey. I'm grateful for what I have. I have a beautiful family. I have three beautiful girls. I've been married. It's a wonderful life, even with the effects of HIV that I have," Moncada said.
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