Five memorials to check out on World AIDS Day – virtually and in-person

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December 1 is World AIDS Day: a time to remember those lost to HIV and raise awareness of the issues the virus still poses. There remains no cure or vaccine but with modern treatment, HIV has become a manageable condition and those living with the virus and being treated can expect to live a normal life span. They also cannot transmit the virus to others if they have a sustained, undetectable viral load.

However, World AIDS Day remains an important date on the calendar, to remind us to never take the gains we’ve made for granted and to push forward to achieve the goal of reducing HIV transmission to zero.

Here are five memorials to remember those that have gone before.

National AIDS Memorial Grove – San Francisco

An engraved rock at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco
An engraved rock at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco

The National AIDS Memorial Grove can be found in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. It was conceived in 1989 when the city was in the grip of the AIDS epidemic. Its aim is to provide a healing sanctuary for those impacted by HIV and the loss of loved ones. It remains a beautifully tended woodland grotto to explore and a place of quiet contemplation. As you find yourself walking beneath the fronds of giant ferns, you’ll spot the many rocks engraved with the names of those lost to AIDS.

The New York City AIDS Memorial

New York City AIDS Memorial
The New York City AIDS Memorial (Photo: Fulbert/CC by-SA 4.0)

Over 100,000 people in New York are believed to have died of HIV-related illness since the early 1980s. New York City’s AIDS Memorial was unveiled on World AIDS Day in 2016 at St Vincent’s Triangle in Greenwich Village – at the junction of 12th Street, Greenwich Avenue and Seventh Avenue. The location was chosen for its proximity to St Vincent’s Hospital, which had the biggest AIDS ward in the country in the 1980s. The memorial is an 18-foot steel sculpture composed of multiple triangles, reaching up into the sky. There’s also a water-filled reflecting fountain and granite engraved with lines from Walt Whitman’s poem, ‘Song of Myself’.

Key West AIDS Memorial

Key West AIDS Memorial
(Photo: Friends of the AIDS Memorial)

Key West in Florida is another part of the US that lost many local residents to AIDS. It unveiled its AIDS memorial in 1997. It can be found at White Street and Atlantic Boulevard, at the entrance to the White Street Pier – a particularly beautiful and serene spot. It consists of several Zimbabwe granite slabs engraved with poems and the names of over a thousand people. Each World AIDS Day, it is the site of a candlelit march. Those whose names are engraved are also listed at KeyWestAids.org.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt

Panels from the AIDS Quilt

The idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by the San Francisco-based LGBTQ activist, Cleve Jones. That year, he once again organized an annual march to commemorate the murder of slain councilman Harvey Milk, but he also asked people to bring names on placards of those lost to AIDS. When the placards were placed together, they resembled a quilt.

The following year, the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt project was born, and people immediately began making quilt panels in memory of friends, lovers, or family who had died. The first exhibition of the quilt took place in October 1987 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It featured almost 2,000 panels, growing to 6,000 by the end of a national tour in 1988.

It has continued to grow since that time and now has over 48,000 panels. Panels are often loaned out for exhibition to museums and schools, and this year, the quilt has gone online. You can now view all the panels and search for names at aidsmemorial.org.

Related: Now you can see all 48,000 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt online

The AIDS Memorial Instagram account

 

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If you want to read stories about those lost to AIDS, one of the best online resources is the Instagram and Facebook account, @TheAIDSMemorial). Launched in 2016, its creator wanted to share photos and information about lives he felt were being forgotten. At first, he posted photos of famous people who had died, but soon people began contacting him with photos and memorials of their own loved ones. Each story is heartbreaking, serving as a testament to how loved these people were, and how their loss is acutely felt by those still alive. There are now many hundreds of entries, with more being added every day.

 

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Related: His family said he died from “a bad case of the flu,” but it was AIDS