SF AIDS Memorial Grove hosts annual vigil

On Monday night, the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park hosted an annual tribute to those who've lost their lives to the disease.

The Memorial Grove is a beautiful tribute that draws extra attention on this night. Many people tell KTVU more attention needs to be paid to educating young people about HIV and AIDS.

Monday was a night of remembrance and reflection. Candles were lit in tribute to lives lost. New names are added each year to the Grove.

One man had his own list.

"I just stopped adding names. The list got so long," said Jim Beitzel of San Francisco.

He lost his husband and his older brother during the early 1990's, when AIDS was a death sentence.

"My partner died at thanksgiving in 1992. My brother died at Christmas. We put him in the hospital Christmas eve the next year, so the holidays are tough," said Beitzel.

The 55-year-old says now, more than two decades later, it's the responsibility of his generation to help shed light on HIV and AIDS to a younger generation, even though medications can now keep people alive longer.

"Young gay men that I know of that think how this is a generation ago and, 'It doesn't impact me,'" said Beitzel.

The names displayed on trees in the grove are unknown to one young man who attended Monday night's event. He never thought HIV and AIDS would touch his life.

"Once I learned that I was positive, it was kind of an awakening," said Manuel Venegas. He told KTVU he has been living with HIV for three years.

The 23-year-old hopes his voice will light a path for other young people to get educated. He says as a teen, it wasn't talked about at home or school.

"Had I had teachers who addressed that head on and say that this may happen in your lifetime, I probably would have been more careful," said Venegas.

"We can't go into the closet with this even now. There's still more to learn," said Beitzel.

Hundreds are expected at the AIDS Memorial Grove on Tuesday to observe World AIDS Day.

There will be a sharing of stories and the reading of the names engraved in the Circle of Friends.