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Long Beach goes red for World AIDS Day

Several buildings in downtown Long Beach will be illuminated with red lights tonight in conjunction with World AIDS Day. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, where Mayor Bob Foster will host the rally and over 25,000 LED lights will turn red.

This is the first year that the city of Long Beach will participate in the event, making it one of 37 cities across the nation and 51 throughout the world that will be illuminated in red.

“Most cities only have one building lit, or very few structures,” said Steve Sheldon, marketing and special events manager of Downtown Long Beach Associates. “We have the ability to make a larger statement because of our lighting systems that are already in place.”

The list of buildings that will be illuminated in red include the Convention Center, the Terrace Theater fountains, THUMS Island, and the Harbor Lighthouse. There are also 19 restaurants agreeing to donate a percentage of proceeds from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to one of the four nonprofit organizations that deal with AIDS care and education.

The four beneficiaries are Long Beach AIDS Foundation, Wells House Hospice Foundation, Center Long Beach HIV Counseling & Testing Program, and Long Beach C.A.R.E. Program.

“Anything we can do to heighten awareness in our city is always a positive benefit,” said Gary Bowie, executive director of Long Beach AIDS Foundation. “It’s a way to bring that message to the general population. Long Beach has the second highest AIDS rate in California.”

Organizers of the event approached city officials and asked them to participate, and it was a unanimous decision to participate in the event. Mayor Foster is hoping to have 500 people attend the event, and over 200 have already confirmed attendance through a Facebook event page.

“(Facebook) is definitely helping to spread the word,” said Stacey Toda, deputy chief of staff of the mayor’s office. “We’re basically having a conversation through Facebook. You can’t do that kind of exchange of information through other media.”

The international event is hoping to raise awareness through information told and handed out at the rally. The other cities in California that are participating are Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco.

“For the city of Long Beach, we’re proud to take part in turning Long Beach red and participate in this international event,” said Toda. “It’s going to be a huge visual reminder that the fight against AIDS is still going on.”

Several structures and streets in Long Beach are already equipped with LED lighting systems, so there will be no cost to the city to light them or change them to red. The ceremony will end at 8:30 p.m., but buildings will remain illuminated in red lighting until midnight.

 


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