Over 21.8 million people have lost their lives to AIDS, and in honor of their memory, 192 countries will take part in World AIDS Day.

Today, the world is observing the 13th-annual World AIDS Day. The White House will dim its lights this evening in a symbolic demonstration signifying the country’s commitment to continue the fight against the AIDS epidemic, and to give tribute to those suffering and those who have died from the disease.

Santa Barbara County honored the day at the city council meeting last Tuesday with a proclamation, David Selberg, Pacific Pride Foundation director of client services, said. The proclamation recognizes the global epidemic of the AIDS virus and acknowledges Santa Barbara’s commitment to increase communication, education and unified action to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.

“UNAIDS [United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS] estimates that over 34 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV and AIDS, with young people under the age of 25 accounting for more than half of all new infections,” he said. “World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to focus local, national and international attention on HIV and AIDS.”

The current number of HIV/AIDS cases reported in Santa Barbara is less than the actual number because the state of California only reports AIDS cases, not people infected with the HIV virus, according to Santa Barbara County Health Care Services representative Laura Price.

“There are 200 people living with AIDS in Santa Barbara County, but probably a total of 300 in this county because of people that have moved here but were diagnosed elsewhere,” she said. “This is only a small part of the people actually living with AIDS. There are something like 1,000 people with HIV in Santa Barbara County, and we don’t know for sure because those statistics are not reportable yet.”

People living with HIV and AIDS may seek help and support at the Pacific Pride Foundation, an organization dedicated to education, prevention and outreach to those living with or affected by the AIDS epidemic, said Daniel Anderson, Pacific Pride Foundation office manager.

The foundation consists of three divisions: the Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, the AIDS Project Central Coast and the Bulletin Publishing Company, which prints a monthly newsletter related to the foundation.

“The Gay and Lesbian Resource Center provides information, movies and support groups for the gay and lesbian community in Santa Barbara,” he said. “Our second division, the AIDS Project Central Coast, is there to provide help to people living with HIV and AIDS and their families; we work a lot with families. We also help with people’s medications and social services.”