Honolulu remembers red ribbons on World AIDS Day

Church of the Crossroads
Church of the Crossroads
Kintaro Yonekura
Kintaro Yonekura

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those red ribbons all around the world on Wednesday, reminded people that AIDS continues to take lives.

On this World AIDS Day, Hawaii did its part, urging people to get tested.

At the Church of the Crossroads, there was a ceremony to revive the fight against AIDS, and a candle vigil to remember those who've lost their lives to the disease.

The memorial hits home for Kintaro Yonekura of Kaimuki.

For 17 years, he lived a life of drugs, alcohol, and risky behavior. In 2003, he found out he was infected with HIV.

"I was either going to end up dead or I was going to end up in jail," said Yonekura.

Yonekura picked choice number three, which was to get help, and get clean.

Today, he's sober, is a few months away from getting his bachelor's degree in Social Work from Hawaii Pacific University, and is a volunteer with the Life Foundation.

The agency raises awareness about HIV/AIDS, and helps survivors.

Life Foundation Executive Director Paul Broesbeck says when he first started 18 years ago, 100 islanders died of the disease every year.

"A number of people I knew in the early going died of AIDS all of a sudden. Back then, it was always a big surprise and it happened very quickly," said Broesbeck.

Now, Broesbeck says the death toll is down to 15 per year.

He also says more Asian and Native Hawaiians are now infected.

"During my time in the Life Foundation, the number of social service clients we have has gone from about 85% Caucasian to 40%," said Broesbeck.

And though deaths are down, he says the problem is people think the disease is no longer a threat.

Those red ribbons? Broesbeck says we hardly see them anymore, except on days like today.

The Life Foundation is determined to keep the fight going, spreading the word that there's no shame in getting help.

Yonekura would know.

"It doesn't have to be who you are, it doesn't have to define you but it is something you can live with, help manage," said Yonekura.

The disease was first diagnosed in Hawaii in 1984.

The Life Foundation says five islanders died of AIDS this past August alone.

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