Hundreds gather at Golden Gate Park for World AIDS Day

On Wednesday night, the eve of World AIDS Day, hundreds gathered at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco's Golden Gate park to remember the many lives lost in the epidemic.

The gathering is part of a fundraiser for the Grove and the annual World AIDS Day activities. .

This year, it is also a celebration of the Memorial's 25th anniversary.

The mood was both joyful and somber as people remembered the past and look to the future.

"It just makes it really raw like it was just yesterday," says Natalie Miller, whose brother died of HIV/AIDS in 1988.

The AIDS Memorial Grove is meant to be a place of remembrance and renewal.

One of the names in the circle of friends in the Grove is Kevin Joel Kaiser, Miller's brother.

"My brother's been dead over 25 years but he was like everything to me. As much as I miss him...he's now eternal. He's always here

This is Miller's first time at the grove. She came from her home in Auburn.

"Just seeing his name engraved here's just amazing," says Miller.

She says she can clearly picture her much adored older brother as she finds solace in this place of healing.

She says Kevin died at age 35...only 18 months after being diagnosed with HIV.

"It is not over. We need to continue to demand research continue on this," says John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial.

Now 25 years later, there is some comfort in this community, knowing that AIDS is no longer a death sentence thanks to medications.

But there is still no cure.
"We will get a vaccine. But until then, we need to continue to be vigilant," says Cunningham.

And to remember lessons learned.

The mother of Ryan White, the Indiana teenager with AIDS who fought stigma before he died, says the past is part of today's progress . .

The difference that he's made in the epidemic in the community of HIV/AIDS epidemic, I couldn't be more proud," says Jeanne White-Ginder.

This is a community united by pride and grief.

"It's just nice to be able to come here and be supported and know that my brother's name will be here forever," says Natalie Miller.

Wednesday's gathering was the first of a two- day of World AIDS Day. Thursday's events include the reading of the names engraved in the Circle of Friends. ]