World AIDS Day Awareness Event Calls Attention to Treatments, Survivors

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Debi Fingerhut, child life specialist, Miller Children’s; Glen and Debbie Bickerstaff, philanthropists; and Jim Normandin, president, Memorial Medical Center Foundation, gather to celebrate World AIDS Day at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

Debi Fingerhut, child life specialist, Miller Children’s; Glen and Debbie Bickerstaff, philanthropists; and Jim Normandin, president, Memorial Medical Center Foundation, gather to celebrate World AIDS Day at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 7 (14 percent) are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Although advancements in treatment have been made and are keeping people alive and healthy, the pace of new infections continues to increase.

“Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV and AIDS,” says Audra Deveikis, M.D., medical director, Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center, Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. “In my time practicing, I have seen this disease go from a death sentence to a very manageable illness. We have to continue seeking out new methods of treatment in order to truly cure HIV/AIDS.”

In an effort to spread HIV/AIDS awareness, the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach hosted a World AIDS Day Awareness Event on Dec. 1.

The ceremony began with former Mattel® Executive and Miller Children’s volunteer Joseph Cristina sharing his story. More than 20 years ago Cristina was diagnosed with HIV. Since then he has turned the tragedy of an HIV-positive diagnosis into an opportunity by founding the Joseph Cristina HIV/AIDS Children’s Fund in collaboration with Mattel®. Cristina announced at the event that his fund would be making a contribution of $10,000 to the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center at Miller Children’s for crucial family transportation purposes to help ensure patients can get to and from their doctors appointments.

Following Joseph Cristina, two patients took the stage to tell their stories and share their experiences with the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center. “They saved my life,” said one patient who was diagnosed last year. “Not just because they treated my illness, but because they helped me psychologically and put me back together at a time when I needed it the most.”

Glen and Debbie Bickerstaff, who the Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center is named after, were honored at the celebration by the Memorial Medical Center Foundation and received a Los Angeles County Proclamation for their continued support of the Bickerstaff Center from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

“We are now at a point where patients who were prenatally infected with HIV are having children themselves who are free of the disease,” says Dr. Deveikis. “This proves that we can control the infection rate, but the only way to get to zero is through awareness and testing.”

Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center physicians Tempe Chen, M.D., David Mickhalik, D.O.,  Jagmohan Batra, M.D., and Audra Deveikis, M.D. mingle at the World AIDS Day celebration.

Bickerstaff Pediatric Family Center physicians Tempe Chen, M.D., David Mickhalik, D.O.,
Jagmohan Batra, M.D., and Audra Deveikis, M.D. mingle at the World AIDS Day celebration.

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