'Tribute to everyone:' SF holds remembrance on 30th annual World AIDS Day in Golden Gate Park

Saturday marks the 30th Annual World Aids Day.

San Francisco will hold a remembrance, free and open to the public at the National Aids Memorial in Golden Gate Park from noon to 1:30 pm. 

Friday evening, it was the scene of Light the Grove, a fundraiser held every year on the eve of World Aids Day. 

"We have traveled here every year for the past 20 to be part of this and to remember Mark," said Howard Hardin III, who traveled from New York, with the mother of his late friend Mark Lambert, who died of AIDS at age 41. 

Lambert's name is among 3,000 engraved in the Circle of Friends, the heart of the Grove. His mother Edith had one word to describe her son: "Perfect."  She shook her head tearfully, asked if the passage of 25 years mattered, saying "Nope, nope." 

Behind every name, every etching, there is a story. And as supporters mingled at a fundraising gala, many stories were shared. 

"So many of us were told not to talk about our parents, to hide who they were," said Whitney Joiner, who co-founded a group for those whose parents died of HIV.

The Recollectors Project is a community, on the web and Facebook. 

"We grew up feeling very isolated about how our parents died," explained Joiner, " so this is connection with people who have been through the same experience." 

The board chairman of the National Aids Memorial says he has grown up with the grove. 

"I'm 32 years living with this virus and I can never get tired of fighting," declared Michael Shriver, "and 32 years ago, for me to think I was going to live to be 30 unfathomable, and I'm 55 now."  

Shriver says San Francisco remains the model for treatment and prevention: 221 new infections last year- an all-time low. 

But he worries about complacency, because in the U.S.  more than 1 million people are living with HIV.
Millions more may be positive, but are untested. 

"It's not over, it's not done, we really need to keep pushing," insisted Shriver, "because with the data for black gay men in the South, African-American women, trans women, we have to do better."

The epidemic is never far from those it has touched, and Edith Lambert, traveling from New Hampshire, says San Francisco's event is one she will not miss. 

"I think it's so beautiful the way they do it, it's such a tribute to everyone," said Lambert.

Added Hardin: "From the first time, there were tears and sorrow but we realized we weren't alone, with the other names and others who have also lost someone." 

Saturday's public event will dedicate a new portal to those in the performing arts, including members of San Francisco's Gay Men’s Chorus, and includes a gong for the public to ring.