LGBTQ Center of Long Beach hosts candlelit walk and vigil for World AIDS Day


Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune

The memorial created at Bluff Park on Monday, Dec. 2 in honor of those who have died due to HIV/AIDS.

The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach held a candlelit walk and vigil on Monday, Dec. 2 in honor of World AIDS Day, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 1. The event is meant to honor and memorialize those who have died due to HIV/AIDS.

Those participating in the vigil gathered at the LGBTQ Center and walked down Junipero Avenue holding candles, stopping at Bluff Park in downtown.

Aside from candles, attendees also carried framed pictures of red ribbons with the names and ages of individuals who died as a result of health complications caused by HIV/AIDS. Many of those walking had red ribbons pinned to their clothing as well.

Once at Bluff Park, the framed names were set down in front of cardboard cut outs of red ribbons and candles were lit in front of them. A semi- circle was formed around the memorial and people took turns saying the names of loved ones who died as a result of HIV/AIDS. A moment of silence for those who died was observed followed by extinguishing the candles.

Members of the nonprofit group, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, also participated in the event. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence consists of queer and transgender individuals who work together to perform community outreach and advocate for marginalized people.

“What we do, basically, is raise money for the community,” Sister Burna Cross of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence told the Signal Tribune. “So everything that comes in, 100% of the money goes right back out. And we make sure we bring joy to everybody that we touch base with.”

Cross has participated in the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach’s annual World AIDS Day vigil for the past eight years and told the Signal Tribune that the event has grown in size over the years.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence models itself after groups of Catholic nuns who perform charity work for their communities. The members use the title of “Sister” before their names and sometimes attend events in colorful nun-inspired costumes. One member of the nonprofit who came in full costume to the World AIDS Day Vigil on Dec. 2 was Sister Caryn Soul who, along with a decorative veiled headpiece and dress, also painted glittery red ribbons on her face.

“It can be nerve wracking and maddening,” Sister Caryn Soul said in regards to the stigma individuals who are HIV/AIDS positive often face. “But again it just shows that we need to have more education out there [on] the real [causes of] it, like sexual contact and blood. Kissing and toilets do not give it to you. Just remember to be nice, because you never know what someone is dealing with.”

Despite the loss of life caused by the disease, Soul noted that progress is still steadily being made in combating HIV/AIDS, such as the creation of PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a medication that can prevent HIV/AIDS.

“I always feel like we’re moving forward, it may not be grandiose, but there’s always some kind of movement,” Soul told the Signal Tribune. “[…] We’ve made lots of advancements in these past few years. We’re coming out with PrEP, which reduces your chance of contracting HIV/AIDS. We have undetectable people [whose] viral load is so low that they can’t transmit it either. So there’s been a lot of advancements.”