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National AIDS Memorial to observe World AIDS Day with events honoring Voices of Hope

Photo credit:
World AIDS Day

As people from around the world come together on December 1 to commemorate World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Memorial will bring together more than 1,600 supporters, friends and loved ones for two-days of events to pay tribute to the lives lost, inspire remembrance, healing and convey an important message of hope for the future.

The two days of tributes will focus on ‘Voices of Hope’ with the National AIDS Memorial honoring people who have helped capture and curate the vast and diverse voices of the epidemic by telling the personal stories by survivors aimed at inspiring future generations with messages of profound courage, unrelenting hope, and unity of humankind.

“The National AIDS Memorial is honored to recognize leaders who have been so instrumental in the fight against AIDS and whose extraordinary work has made a significant impact during the more than thirty years since the first diagnosis of AIDS in the United States,” said John Cunningham, Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial.  “Through their collective voices they have told their own personal stories of AIDS which has included heartbreak, loss, love, a will to survive and build hope for the future.”

During the National AIDS Memorial’s Light in the Grove annual Gala on Friday evening, November 30th,long-time AIDS activist and outgoing Board Chair Mike Shriver will be honored with the “Lifetime of Commitment” award for his decades of unwavering philanthropy, activism and leadership in support of HIV/AIDS, LGBT communities and civil liberties.  During the event, much of the memorial’s ten acres will be beautifully illuminated, paying tribute to those who have died while also celebrating the spirit of light and life. Guests will experience a candlelight reflection at the Circle of Friends and an evening that includes special musical and choreographed artistic performances.

On Saturday, December 1st World AIDS Day ceremonies will reinforce the link between the San Francisco community’s historical significance in the epidemic and the National AIDS Memorial as a symbol of hope to the rest of the world.

Honorees will include Al and Jane Nakatani who will receive The Humanitarian Award for their work as founders of “Honor Thy Children,” a non-profit organization with a mission that calls for mainstream communities to show acceptance, demand inclusion, and demonstrate compassion for those impacted by denigration in general and HIV/AIDS specifically. The Thom Weyand Unsung Hero Award will be presented to Whitney Joiner & Alysia Abbott, founders of The Recollectors Project, a storytelling community and website for the many children left behind by parents who died of AIDS.

Underscoring Voices of Hope, the National AIDS Memorial will award $50,000 in scholarships to the next generation of leaders in the AIDS movement as part of the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship Program. The ten scholarships support the academic efforts of emerging young leaders who demonstrate an active commitment to fighting AIDS, and who plan to pursue careers and community work to find ways to make a difference in the epidemic. The scholarship program is named in honour of AIDS educator, activist and reality television pioneer Pedro Zamora, who passed away in 1994 from an AIDS-related illness. 

During the ceremony, a video tribute will be made as part of the National AIDS Memorial Surviving Voices initiative in collaboration with HIV Story Project featuring stories from the Asian & Pacific Islander community. World AIDS Day ceremonies will conclude with supporters gathering in the Circle of Friends for the reading of the names of those engraved at the Memorial this year. 

Top partners for World AIDS Dayand Light in the Grove events are Quest Diagnostics as this year’s “Angel Partner” and Gilead and Chevron as “Remembrance Partners.”  

“The work of the National AIDS Memorial in helping provide a place of remembrance so the lives of those who died from AIDS are not forgotten and that their stories are known by future generations wouldn’t be possible without the support of so many of our longtime partners,” said Cunningham.  “We are especially grateful this year to Quest Diagnostics, Gilead and Chevron for their partnership and continued leadership around World AIDS Day.” 

The National AIDS Memorial relies solely on funding from longtime personal donors and corporate partners to support its mission as a dedicated space in the national landscape where millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS can gather to heal, hope, and remember.

The National AIDS Memorial, known as “the Grove”, was created more than twenty-five years ago in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a place where those impacted by AIDS could both grieve and begin the process of healing.  In 1996, legislation sponsored by U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi was signed into law by President Clinton that elevated “the Grove” as this nation's sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial. 

World AIDS Day is a reminder that more than three decades into the epidemic, more than 70 million people around the world have been infected with the HIV virus, with 35 million people having died from HIV- and AIDS-related causes. While much progress has been made in preventing and treating HIV, today 36 million people are currently living with the virus. New advancements in diagnostics, treatments and medicine are helping nearly 20 million people live with the disease. In the United States, 1.1 million people are currently living with HIV with the number of new cases having dropped by nearly 20% since 2008.

To learn more about Light in the Grove, World AIDS Day commemoration at the National AIDS Memorial and this year’s honorees, please visit www.aidsmemorial.org.