We were delighted that Leader Nancy Pelosi joined us at our Community Volunteer Workday on Saturday, April 21st. Her visit to the Grove commemorated her twenty-fifth year as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987 to represent California’s 8th Congressional District, which includes most of San Francisco. In 2002, she made history when she became the first woman elected to lead a major political party in Congress; in 2007 she became the first woman elected Speaker of the House.
In her first speech to the Congress in 1987, Nancy Pelosi famously said she came to the House of Representatives to fight AIDS. In those days, some people suggested that she might not want to become identified with that particular cause. But Pelosi wanted to share what San Francisco had learned about prevention and care with the rest of the country, referring to the “San Francisco model of care.”
Leader Pelosi helped enact legislation to assist in housing of people living with HIV/AIDS. She pushed to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which assists thousands of low-income people in getting care and treatment. Her efforts to prevent drastic cuts in care and treatment for San Francisco have resulted in the restoration of millions of previously cut dollars from systems of care that people living with HIV/AIDS rely upon for access to medications and primary medical care. She is committed to ensuring that care, treatment, prevention and research initiatives receive funding increases. Pelosi continues fighting to expand access to care as part of comprehensive health reform. She has also led efforts to fund the global fight against AIDS. If all of that were not enough, Leader Pelosi was instrumental in passing the legislation in 1996 that designated our local “AIDS Grove” as this country’s National AIDS Memorial.
Representative Pelosi has faithfully commemorated her milestone years in Congress by volunteering at the Grove. On both her 10th and 20th anniversary years in Congress, she planted commemorative trees. Today, both these trees stand strong and graceful.
Thank you Leader Pelosi for the honor of commemorating yet another milestone year in Congress with us at the National AIDS Memorial Grove!
The purpose of the National AIDS Memorial Grove’s World AIDS Day Youth Scholarship Program is to engage youth to explore the ways they are touched by HIV/AIDS and the Grove. It is an essay contest for current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, addressing the significance of HIV/AIDS and the National AIDS Memorial Grove in up to 750 words, and judged by a panel of experts from the community. This year, four scholarships of $1,000 USD were awarded, and winners were recognized at the Grove’s annual World AIDS Day observance on December 1, 2011.
Read some of the essays below:
Around the world, nearly 8,000 children die each day of hunger. Some starve. Some get sick and their hungry bodies are too weak to fight. Either way, the result is the same: another child dies every 10 seconds.
At our April 16 Community Volunteer Workday, the Grove was privileged to host a group of twenty-five youth from Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church’s Junior High Ministries. The youngsters were part of a much larger movement of students and youth groups all over the world making an effort to fight hunger and save lives by participating in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine program. These students had chosen to spend the final four hours of their 30-hour fundraising fast—working at the Grove.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students participate in this fast, going without food for 30 hours. They experience hunger firsthand to help feed and care for hungry children. They learn what it takes to stop hunger by raising monies to help feed and care for tens of thousands of children all over the world. Their eyes are opened to a world of hunger and hope, and their minds are filled with the understanding needed to fight poverty and injustice.
My name is Kushaba Moses Mworeko a 31 year old Ugandan.
It was my pleasure commemorating World AIDS Day 2010 with fabulous people who are very much concerned with this epidemic that has claimed millions and millions of people.
As an oldest child of the six children, I became the caretaker of the family at age 15 after losing my sister and my parents (Johosophat and Jovia Natukunda Mworeko) of HIV/AIDS in 1989, October 1992 and April 1995, respectively. These have become my heroes and I feel so proud talking about them while trying to save a few people. In 1989 and early 1990s the AIDS epidemic was rampant in the country because public awareness was low and because the health care system was not well equipped to deal with the spread of HIV/AIDS. This epidemic had caught like bush fire and had already registered devastating effects throughout Uganda. Death, death, and death was the order of the day. For instance, in the Rakai District, South Western Uganda, 70% of the adult population had vanished because of HIV/AIDS, leaving behind helpless orphans. But the cause of their deaths remained a mystery because many thought the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS were the result of spells from African witchcraft (juju). Photo by Todd Franson, Metro Weekly
I remember a witchdoctor coming home to save my sister but in vain. There was a musician, Philly Bongole Lutaaya who was already infected with the virus and decided to save his countrymen and future generation. At that time, in Uganda, the truth about the disease was concealed because the word SEX had to be mentioned which is a TABOO in our culture. But amidst discrimination and rejection, Lutaaya was determined to unveil and reveal the Truth that “AIDS was the killer and it was spread through SEX, and blood contact.”
The government came up with an awareness and education campaign on the epidemic with campaign messages from Philly Lutaaya’s music.
The following are some educational lyrics from his AIDS awareness song and album, “Alone”:
Today it’s me
Tomorrow someone else
It’s you and me
We’ve got to stand up and fight
We’ll take a light in the fight against AIDS
Let’s come on out
Let’s stand together, fight AIDS
In times of joy, in times of sorrow
Let’s take a stand and fight on to the end
With open hearts, let’s stand up and speak out to the world
We’ll save some lives, save the children of the world.
The government felt it was wise having these campaigns start in schools through music, dance and drama and then to families. I was so very involved in this awareness campaign and what hurt me most was that my family became the first victim. At first I didn’t believe it, but …I came to realize it as years went by when my other relatives and friends died.
I am deeply frustrated by what is going on in my country. With the Anti-homosexuality bill 2009 which seeks to introduce life in prison or the the death penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and to criminalize the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality (giving it seven years in prison). And if the offender is a business or a non-governmental organization, its certificate of registration will be cancelled on conviction. Other provisions are; death for gays that are HIV positive and up to 3 years in prison for failure to report a homosexual. In other words, this bill makes everybody a potential criminal.
Thank you to John Cunningham, the Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, who invited me to attend World AIDS Day 2010 and who honored me on that day. I believe that the more we together come forward and talk about it, the stronger we become in working out the its remedies.
I like Dr. George Ayala of MSMGF who said that “Every person deserves the right to fair treatment and freedom from persecution. The more we learn about HIV, the more we see that working to eradicate stigma, discrimination, and violence is essential to securing the right to health for MSM.
I hope whoever reads this will be touched and realize that HIV/AIDS is real and something needs to be done about it.
Here is the original message I sent to John the night before World AIDS Day,
Tomorrow December 1, is WAD. This day usually reminds me of Important people that I have lost to this epidemic. My parents and sibling (Dad, Mom, and Sister)- 1989, 1992 & 1995 respectively, my Uncles, Aunties, cousins and friends.
Everyone of us is either infected or affected. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there is a lot still to be done.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS.
So, my appeal to you is, to stand with me tomorrow as we remember the loved ones we have lost and comfort the ones that are infected and continue to raise awareness on this epidemic.
Thank you so very much.
LIGHT AND SHADE
By Miguel Ochoa
The National AIDS Memorial Grove depicts the road that one encounters through AIDS with the light and shade that is naturally produced by the Grove. Throughout the AIDS journey, one is bound to face moments when they would like to disappear off into the shade and live in darkness.And then there are other moments that bring light and brightness back into ones life, again.
I can only imagine that living a life with AIDS would be a life filled with broken circles, broken communities, and broken lives. The circle of friends and family that you once had is now broken by those who turned their backs on you when you first notify them that you have AIDS.
There are some people out there who have no support system what so ever, and must go through the emotional, physical, and spiritual roller coaster of dealing with their new situation alone.
But I can also imagine, that when you surround yourself by those who truly do care about you, and build a new group of friends who are going through the same things as you are, the circles of your life start to mend. If you do build a group of friends to help you cope with AIDS, you are indeed lucky, as that will create a new circle and bring the light back to your life. Until there is a treatment to completely cure AIDS, the community around you, and those circles around you, will keep breaking.
The AIDS Memorial Grove represents this sorrowful cycle with its circles that are whole and other that are broken. There is even a tree that lies in the middle of a path, by the Circle of Peace, forcing people to climb over it. For me, the symbolic meaning of that one tree is that there are big obstacles that will get in our way, and one way or another, it is necessary for us to find a way to go over those obstacles, which in the end, will make us become stronger and will again bring us out into the light.
by Jeannel Miclat
“Stay still anak”. The mother spoke affectionately as she watched her son. He wiggled and twisted this way and that, as he lay on an old rusted table. He was her last and only child to survive. Wrinkles had finally caught up to the seemingly permanent youthful face of hers. She already lost her earlier children to unwanted friends: Malaria, Dengue, and Tuberculosis. She was not willing to lose her last hope to those plagues again. His possible savior: the vaccines his mother saved up for months to pay for.
“Just a little pinch,” the nurse smiled through her words as she prepared the needle. “Ready?” The little boy shut his eyes, clenched his fists and eventually nodded yes. “All done”, the nurse grinned.
The nurse looked back over her shoulder to see the concerned mother watching her clean the needles and gloves. The nurse broke the tension. “This is a very small and very poor clinic. We cannot afford many gloves or needles. But now we know what to do. There is nothing else to worry about.”
Throughout the world there are thousands of these tiny clinics. Not all of them know how, or can afford to sterilize medical tools that have been contaminated by bodily fluids that contain bacteria and viruses. This leaves many, many children exposed to HIV and eventually AIDS.
Since the early 1980’s, the worldwide HIV infection rate has risen exponentially to 33.4 million in 2008. The highest concentrations of infected people are in some of the poorest and most inadequately supplied regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South-east Asia, and Latin America. HIV and AIDS has shown it doesn’t discriminate. It knows not your gender, your race, your sexual orientation, or your age. It only knows…you are a host, a possible victim and future statistic. Worldwide media campaigns and Public Services announcements have enlightened people on the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. But what if you don’t know? How will you protect yourself? Knowing it exists is not enough. Preventing is not enough. Treating is not enough. Curing HIV is when it will be enough.
by Rosa Reyes
One important lesson that I have gained through the processes of learning about HIV/AIDS, has been that anyone can get infected with HIV/AIDS. In this epidemic there is no age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status and even if you are not infected with the disease you can still be affected. For this reason, I can see the importance of bringing awareness through The National AIDS Memorial Grove.
When I first saw the subject for this essay I felt I was not going to be able to write it because I did not feel connected with the topic- I thought that this could never happen to me. Through research and learning more about HIV/AIDS I have come upon the realization that this is not true, because teenagers are very susceptible to getting an HIV/AIDS infection—especially if we are not educated and aware of the seriousness of what an HIV/AIDS infection is and how it is transmitted. I have also learned that the more aware and educated I become about this topic, the more I can protect myself and the people around me.
Just learning how to prevent the infection of HIV/AIDS is a big step to decreasing the number of people getting infected. If our society starts to put more focus in sex education the risks of young adults becoming infected will be less. This will provide people at risk with the information and choices: of using condoms consistently and correctly, being honest with your partner, abstinence, or delaying the first time one has sex. HIV counseling and testing, not sharing needles and treating sexually transmitted infections that will then lead to the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Through all this, The National AIDS Memorial Grove plays an important role in bringing awareness to our community. The tragedy of HIV/AIDS brings people from different backgrounds together to learn and grieve with each other. It provides a sanctuary to those people who are going through the hardship of being infected with HIV/AIDS and to those who have had a dear one who has passed away due to HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Memorial Grove also plays a vital role in maintaining public awareness of HIV/AIDS, as it reaches out to young people and brings them consciousness of this tragedy and its impact in our community.
Scholarship The purpose of the Youth Scholarship Program is to engage youth to explore the ways they are touched by HIV/AIDS and the Grove. The National AIDS Memorial Grove Youth College Scholarship Program is an essay contest for current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, addressing the significance of HIV/AIDS and the NAMG in up to 750 words and judged by a panel of experts from the community. This year, three scholarships of $1,000 USD were awarded, and winners were recognized at the ceremony on December 1, 2010, World AIDS Day.
Read the essays:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2009