Today, Facebook users are temporarily changing their profile pictures and celebrities are getting tested to encourage others to do the same. The occasion is World AIDS Day, the 35th anniversary of the first published reports of what we know call HIV/AIDS.
"This disease has wrought enormous suffering and devastation and caused more than 35 million deaths," National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci wrote to mark the occasion. "Yet today, thanks to remarkable achievements in biomedical science and public health, we have the tools to build a better future for individuals living with HIV and for those at risk of infection. We are hopeful that new approaches currently under exploration could expedite the end of the HIV/AIDS pandemic."
As the 35-year milestone is commemorated internationally, another benchmark, and a less encouraging one, has been reached locally. The granite circle at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park that bears the names of loved ones lost to the virus has been inscribed with its final name: It's run out of room. The Chronicle reports that from now on, the grove will likely build a sidewalk of engraved bricks for others whose lives are cut short by AIDS.
"Obviously, advances in medical care continue to show promising results,” grove Executive Director John Cunningham told the Chronicle. “But AIDS is still an incurable, life-threatening disease. And the story of AIDS goes beyond the disease. It goes to the deeper issues of prejudice and discrimination.”
Now, under the coming Trump administration, Cunningham's concerns are renewed. "All our gains are at risk,” he said. “If they’re going to gut access to health care, it will compromise everything we’ve accomplished.”
To mark the occasion today at the grove, which was created 25 years ago in 1991, speakers like Rabbi Ted Riter and Natinoal Minority AIDS council leader Paul Katawa gathered in Golden Gate Park. There, the assembled read the names on the granite, as is traditional, out loud.