Palm Springs commemorates World AIDS Day, welcomes 'Berlin Patient'
"There's a huge initiative here in the valley to get people to get tested," said Tim O'Bayley, the publicist for the AIDS Assistance Program.
On World AIDS Day valley residents are encouraged to learn about the virus and how it affects the community.
"We have one of the highest infection infection rates in the country here in the Coachella Valley, particularly around Palm Springs. Our infection rate is three times that of the national average," said Darrell Tucci, chief development officer at Desert AIDS Project.
The Desert AIDS Project alone serves more than 2,000 people every year and that number continues to grow.
"The best way to survive living with HIV is to immediately be linked to care. So as scary as it could be, people can live full long lives with proper medical care," Tucci said.
Timothy Ray Brown is a living example, he was diagnosed with the virus in 1995 while attending school in Berlin. In 2006 he learned he had leukemia and received a stem cell transplant. The donor's cells had a mutation that makes cells immune to HIV.
Today he is famously referred to as the "Berlin Patient," the first person in the world considered to be cured of the virus.
"There's no sign of HIV in my body anywhere," Brown said.
He added that the importance of learning your status should outweigh any fear of getting checked. And he traveled to the valley this weekend to share that very message.
"Please get tested, it's very important. People that take their HIV medication basically have a normal life expectancy," Brown said.
He remains hopeful there'll be an end to the virus in the near future.
"I think there's going to be a cure readily available for everyone in my lifetime," Brown said.
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