The City of West Hollywood and its Human Services Commission presented The Paul Andrew Starke Warrior Awards ceremony honoring those who provide assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS, as part of the City’s World AIDS Day 2022 celebration on December 1, 2022. The presentation was led by Human Service Commission Chair Barbara Meltzer and Vice Chair Chelsea Byers at the Aquatics and Recreation Center. West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister spoke at the event along with her colleagues Council members Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico.
Photos by Mike Pingel for WEHO TIMES (click to enlarge).
There was a reception prior to the Warrior Awards ceremony offering light refreshments, snacks and cake. The event featured an update on the City of West Hollywood’s HIV Zero Initiative from Aaron Celious, Ph.D. of the Maroon Society. Each awardee was presented with a plaque by a Human Services Commissioner.
Photos by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES (click to enlarge).
The Warrior Awards are given to outstanding employees or volunteers of local agencies that offer HIV/AIDS and/or substance abuse prevention and care services. This year’s honorees are:
Dr. Jesika Babajanian – Being Alive;
Andres Diaz – AIDS Healthcare Foundation;
Ruben Garcia – APLA Health;
Gerardo Mendez – C.I.T.Y. x1 Youth Group;
Francis Ocon – Men’s Health Foundation;
Claudia Pacheco – Los Angeles LGBT Center;
Robb Peters – The Tweakers Project;
Sunnie Rose – The Life Group LA;
John Walter – Friends Community Center; and
Warren Wimmer – Alliance for Housing and Healing.
World AIDS Day originated at the 1988 United Nations World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention and is held each year on December 1. Every year, United Nations agencies, governments, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and others across the globe join together to campaign around specific themes related to AIDS. World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have passed away due to HIV/AIDS. The international theme of this year’s #WorldAIDSDay is “Equalize” and the slogan is a call to action for communities to address inequalities that perpetuate the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic had a significant impact in West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations. The City of West Hollywood sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.
The City of West Hollywood actively participates in the development of programs that can bring awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and services to people living with HIV/AIDS. In January 2015, the City announced its vision to become an ‘HIV Zero’ city. The City is currently implementing its HIV Zero Strategic Initiative.