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Philadelphia LGBTQIA+ community mourns loss of prominent leader

Philadelphia LGBTQIA+ mourns loss of prominent leader
Philadelphia LGBTQIA+ mourns loss of prominent leader 02:06

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Philadelphia LGBTQIA+ community is mourning the loss of a prominent leader. For decades, Ignacio Yoshiaki Yamasaki Bussey made HIV/AIDS advocacy his life's work.

An office can say a lot about a person and this one is overflowing with life.

Luscious plants and Mexican trinkets belonged to the late Ignacio Yoshiaki Yamasaki Bussey.

"He was kinda so eclectic," Deja Alvarez, interim executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Consortium, said. "He was so grounded in who he was, where he came from, his culture."

Everybody knew him as Yoshi.

Deja Alvarez shared a friendship with him that spanned more than 20 years. She says he was a proud gay man, who came to this country from Mexico City in 1991 as an undocumented immigrant, where he was a licensed psychologist.

"When he landed here," Alvarez said, "that's kinda was when the AIDS epidemic was really hitting hard so he saw a lot of the repercussions of how that went unattended for the first several years."

In 1995, Yoshi earned his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and for the last 15 years, Yoshi served as executive director of the Philadelphia AIDS Consortium in Center City on Broad Street -- also called TPAC.

"He made it his life's mission to do everything he could do in his power to not only represent but figure out ways to create resources for people who were living with AIDS and HIV," Alvarez said.


In Philadelphia, where the health department estimates 30,000 people are living with HIV in the greater Philadelphia area, Yoshi was committed to making sure testing and treatment were available, as well as support groups.

TPAC also supports other marginalized communities as well.

Yoshi touched people whose lives were parallel to his own, many in the LGBTQIA+ community.

"Yoshi helped make sure I had access to medical treatment and medication," Benson Churgai said. "He helped me follow through with my dream job because I thought it wasn't going to be possible, being a transgender male."

And undocumented immigrants

"I came here and the first person I met here in this place," Miguel Rodriguez said, "he opened the door and he just hugged me."

As this organization is grieving the loss of its beloved humble leader, Alvarez is stepping in as interim executive director, a seat she can only imagine one person filling.

"It's still Yoshi's," she said.

But the heart and soul he led with still permeates this office and is a legacy they hope to uphold.

"Every one of us is committed to ensuring that his legacy lives on through each one of us, through the work that we do, and through the communities that we serve," Alvarez said.

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