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San Diegans gather to remember the millions who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS

Wednesday, Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. The World Health Organization says about 38 million people around the world are living with HIV today.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — HIV and AIDS devastated communities around the world four decades ago and experts say infection rates today continue to be of serious concern.

Wednesday is World AIDS Day and here in San Diego people gathered to remember the millions of people who lost their lives to the disease.

The World Health Organization says about 38 million people around the world are living with HIV today and advocates say we all must continue to address the issue if we want to save lives.

A lot has changed since 1981 when the first cases of HIV and AIDS were diagnosed in the United States.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden also launched a National HIV/AIDS Strategy, hoping to speed up efforts to end HIV by 2030.

“The number of cases is still surprising giving our tools that we have to reduce the risk of transmission from one person to another,” said Dr. Adam Zweig, the director or San Diego’s AIDS Health Foundation.

Dr. Zweig said people with HIV only take one dose of medicine per day to stay healthy and for some, the virus can become undetectable.

Still, the CDC says higher rates of infection continue plaguing Black and Latino communities across the country.

“The people and groups that have higher levels of stigma, are less likely to access care for HIV treatment or HIV prevention,” said Dr. Zweig.

A.H.F says in 2019, there were just over 13,000 people living with HIV in San Diego County. On World AIDS Day, San Diego advocacy group Mama’s Kitchen gathered for its 30th Annual Tree of Life ceremony, supporting those living with HIV and remembering those who died.

“There’s a lot people who may think that AIDS is not a problem and we still have a long road ahead of us,” said Alberto Cortes, CEO of Mama’s Kitchen.

Thirty years after announcing his HIV positive status to the world, NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson helped change how people think about AIDS. He says speaking out about it proved to be the right decision.

“It helped people who were living with not just HIV and AIDS but with any disease, that you can live on, you can be-- live a productive life,” said Magic Johnson, NBA Hall of Famer.

San Diego’s AIDS Health Foundation recently opened a free, full-service wellness center to anyone seeking prevention services or HIV treatment. For more information visit here.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego's top stories for Dec. 1 at 6 p.m.