World AIDS Day: Remembering East Bay Activist Who Served Spanish-Speaking HIV/AIDS Patients

In scrubs and sweaters, staff at Kaiser Permanente-San Leandro Medical Center marched around the hospital on World AIDS Day to remember patients lost to the disease.

Thursday's march was dedicated to one particular patient, Ron Chavez, who founded Grupo VIP, a support group for HIV-positive Spanish speakers based in Fremont 13 years ago.

Chavez died suddenly after a stroke and other AIDS-related illnesses in September. He was 59. 

"He was beloved. He was saintly. His work is being carried on," said Dr. Dan Klein, an infectious disease expert who treats HIV/AIDS patients at the San Leandro hospital. 

Longtime friend and colleague Gustavo Fernandez said Grupo VIP has continued to meet monthly and connect HIV-positive Spanish-speakers and their families with support and services. But he misses his friend. 

"I'm here to honor him. I'm here as a face for the group," Fernandez said. "I've lost a lot of people, a lot of friends (to AIDS). I've lost 300 people that I've known in the community. And they're missed, and they're remembered every year and every day in everybody's hearts."

Kaiser supported the Grupo VIP nonprofit with grants. Anyone who wants to get tested for HIV can visit a Kaiser facility or a community clinic. 

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