Amid a New Pandemic, A Muted World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day in the age of COVID.
Donna Aceto

With the COVID-19 epidemic curtailing the customary public gatherings on World ADIS Day in New York City, a small group gathered at the NYC AIDS Memorial as late afternoon drifted into early evening on December 1.

The Memorial, located in St. Vincent’s Park opposite the site of the former West Village hospital where so many AIDS patients were treated and too many died, is providing audio programming throughout the month of December through its “Hear Me: Voices of the Epidemic.” Music, poetry, speeches, and other historical features are mixed with the reading of names of those lost to the first pandemic faced by New York’s LGBTQ community.

Couples huddled together in the early evening on December 1 at the NYC AIDS Memorial.Donna Aceto

Elsewhere across New York State, numerous landmarks were lit in red in honor of World AIDS Day, at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Noting that HIV new infection incidence has declined by 38 percent in the five years since the state adopted its End the Epidemic campaign, the governor said, “Today is World AIDS Day and we remain focused on ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State.”

Activist Shep Wahnon, who has lived with HIV for decades.Donna Aceto

Though there were not the usual mass of candles or live speeches at the West Village Memorial, those on hand marked the occasion by clinging to each other with heads hung in silence and tears shed. Activist Shep Wahnon, who has lived with HIV for decades, did bring a candle to the Memorial, which he held aloft behind a rainbow face mask and wearing an ACT UP button and a GMHC AIDS Walk cap.

A handful of flowers placed at the center of the NYC AIDS Memorial on December 1.Donna Aceto
The spire of One World Trade Center was lit red for World AIDS Day.Flickr/ Governor Andrew Cuomo
The Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, that spans the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland Counties, was also lit red.Flickr/ Governor Andrew Cuomo

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