World AIDS Day draws attention to the epidemic

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday November 22, 2022
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Carolyn Kauli'i, right, discussed a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt remembering Marty Lynn Prairie, an Oglala Lakota Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, during a small, private ceremony on March 20, 2021 to commemorate National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the National AIDS Memorial Grove. The grove will hold its annual World AIDS Day public ceremony December 1. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Carolyn Kauli'i, right, discussed a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt remembering Marty Lynn Prairie, an Oglala Lakota Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, during a small, private ceremony on March 20, 2021 to commemorate National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the National AIDS Memorial Grove. The grove will hold its annual World AIDS Day public ceremony December 1. Photo: Rick Gerharter

As they have for the past 34 years, AIDS activists along with LGBTQ and health organizations will be gathering at events around the Bay Area Thursday, December 1, to mark World AIDS Day.

Founded by the World Health Organization and the joint United Nations Programme on AIDS, World AIDS Day seeks to call attention to the global epidemic that has killed 36 million people since it was first discovered 41 years ago in 1981. The WHO's theme this year is "Equalize."

According to figures from WHO, HIV continues to be a major worldwide health crisis, having killed 40.1 million people, so far, and infecting 1.5 million people each year.

"There were an estimated 38.4 million (33.9-43.8 million) people living with HIV at the end of 2021, two-thirds of whom (25.6 million) are in the WHO African Region," WHO stated.

In California, 138,000 people are living with HIV while, in San Francisco, there are an estimated 16,000 people living with the virus, one of the largest populations in the United States, according to San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

The 31st anniversary of the National AIDS Memorial Grove will be celebrated at its Light in the Grove benefit Wednesday, November 30, at 6 p.m. at the tranquil dell in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Tickets are available online at EventBrite, starting at $300.

This year, according to the grove's website, "we are honoring our very own Cleve Jones with our Lifetime of Commitment Award as we gather with our community on this beautiful evening in the Grove."

Jones, a gay man and longtime AIDS survivor, co-founded the AIDS Memorial Quilt that is now overseen by the AIDS grove. Since the quilt has returned to the Bay Area in early 2020 (after spending several years in Atlanta under the control of the now-dissolved Names Project), Jones has been more involved in the organization. In June, there was a massive display of quilt panels in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park that featured remarks by Jones and quilt co-founders Mike Smith, a gay man, and Gert McMullin, a straight ally.

The following day, the public is invited to participate in the World AIDS Day National Observance, a two-hour event at the grove from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free. More than 500 people are expected, according to the grove's website, which also has information on Light in the Grove.

In addition to Jones, Tyler TerMeer, Ph.D., a gay man living with HIV who is CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, will be attending, along with Dr. Diane Havlir, chief of infectious diseases at UCSF.

The event will be streamed on the AIDS grove's website beginning at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

A free shuttle service, operated by Muni, will be available every 30 minutes between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to take participants from the Castro to the site of the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. Pick-up in the Castro will be in front of the former Pottery Barn, 2390 Market Street. Shuttles will depart on the hour and half hour.

Other San Francisco events

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation will hold a march and candlelight vigil that starts at SFAF's headquarters at 1035 Market Street at 4:30 p.m. and ends at City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place. Participants are encouraged to wear red; signs and candles will be provided.

In addition, two days before, on November 29, SFAF will host a World AIDS Day Art Build Workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. at Strut, its health center located at 470 Castro Street.

"Join us as we learn more about what makes protest art effective and explore historical examples from the HIV/AIDS movement and from famous movements in San Francisco," according to a statement from the organization. "Then create your own posters for World AIDS Day through a hands-on screen printing workshop."

Materials and food will be provided. Both the march and the workshop are free. Masks are encouraged.

George Kelly, the founder of Inscribe, finished up a red ribbon at the intersection of Castro and 18th Streets as part of last year's commemoration of World AIDS Day. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

The eighth annual Inscribe, a sidewalk art event organized by HIV activist George Kelly, will be held on the 400 and 500 blocks of Castro Street from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. December 1.

"The public is invited to reflect and remember the friends, loved ones and neighbors lost to AIDS and inscribe their names on the sidewalks of Castro Street from 17th to 19th Streets in brightly colored chalk, among the bronze plaques of the Rainbow Honor Walk that are affixed to the sidewalks, honoring gay and civil rights leaders," according to a statement from organizers. Kelly promoted the event at the December 3 meeting of the Castro Merchants Association and said the chalk is being donated by Cliff's Variety.

Kelly started the event following the death of his friend from AIDS, Tom Ryan, a much-loved teacher at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy where Kelly volunteers, he told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview.

Originally started with the help of the school's students, the event has survived the COVID pandemic, although now without the students, as COVID protocols have been in place for the past few years.

Kelly, 62 and HIV-positive, still remembers that first year, though, when, after the students had finished their chalk drawings on the sidewalks, he looked at the colorful walkway and realized "The sidewalks looked — oh, my god — like the AIDS quilt."

The drawings persisted for a couple of days after, he said, but on the third night "it kind of rained," and the chalk began to melt together and wash away. It was, Kelly said, "a spiritual" experience.

At 2 p.m. the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will conduct a blessing at the southeast corner of the Castro and 18th streets intersection, the facade of the Bank of America building where the community posts memorials. Michael Chu, a well-known San Francisco DJ who performs as MC2, will spin disco hits from the 1980s to celebrate "the lost generation," organizers stated.

Around the Bay Area
The Oakland LGBTQ Community Center will hold an observance from 3 to 7 p.m., December 1, featuring an "altar of faith, love, and hope," according to information from the center, as well as an opportunity for participants to "share stories, hear poems, listen to music, play games, have fun, and provide information about the services we provide for people living with HIV and those who are at risk." People are encouraged to bring offerings such as flowers and names for the altar. Food and beverages will be provided. The Oakland LGBTQ center is located at 3207 Lakeshore Avenue (use the Rand Avenue entrance around the corner). The event is free.

"It is no secret that the LGBTQ+ community has been hardest hit by the HIV epidemic since the very beginning," said gay Oakland LGBTQ center co-founder and CEO Joe Hawkins in a statement. "Although there have been many advances to successfully treat people living with HIV, allowing people to live long and healthy lives, the rates of new HIV infections among Black and Latinx men who have sex with men and transgender individuals, remain disproportionately and unacceptably high. We invite our community to join us at our World AIDS Day event where we will remember those we have lost and celebrate the resilience of those who are living with HIV in our LGBTQ+ community."

In Half Moon Bay, Coast Pride will host "Art & AIDS: The Unlikely Intersection of Beauty and Tragedy," a talk and art presentation by Susan Zolla-Pazner, Ph.D., about the international artistic response to the AIDS pandemic, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Odd Fellows Hall, 526 Main Street. The event is free but participants are encouraged to register in advance here.

"Presenter Susan Zolla-Pazner is an immunologist whose research career has focused on the intersection of basic science and translational medicine," according to a release from Coast Pride. "Her primary interest is the human immune response to infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-2. Susan was among the first scientists in 1981 to study the immune abnormalities in young adults with a new disease, AIDS. Her most recent work has focused on designing and testing HIV vaccines and developing diagnostic tests for COVID-19 antibodies. She has received funding for her studies from the National Institutes of Health, the US Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."

Several events are planned, beginning November 29, in Santa Clara County.

Observances will kick off with a flag raising ceremony from 12:30 to 2 p.m. Tuesday, November 29, at 70 W. Hedding Street, San Jose, sponsored by the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs and Santa Clara County Department of Public Health.

On Thursday, December 1, there will be a screening of the 2012 documentary "United in Anger: A History of ACT UP" followed by a panel discussion titled "Past, Present, and Future of HIV." This event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at San Jose State University Student Union, Meeting Room 3, 2nd level (1 Washington Square, San Jose) and is sponsored by Pride Center at San Jose State University, Bay Area Community Health Clinic, the Health Trust, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, and Partners in AIDS Care and Education (PACE) Clinic. Admission is free.

Also on December 1, there will be a viewing in San Jose of portions of the AIDS quilt at 200 E. Santa Clara Street, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., sponsored by Project MORE, Silicon Valley Pride, and the Health Trust. Admission is free.

That same day, from 1 to 2 p.m., the city of San Jose will have a flag raising ceremony sponsored by Project MORE, Silicon Valley Pride, and the Health Trust, at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara Street. This will be followed, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., by a candlelight vigil. Admission is free.

Finally, in Contra Costa County, there will be a vigil from 6 to 8 p.m. at Club 1220, 1220 Pine Street, in Walnut Creek. This event is sponsored by JC Events in partnership with Club 1220 and Contra Costa Health Services, which will be offering HIV/STI testing from 4 to 7 p.m.

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