On December 1, 2014, the 21st annual World AIDS Day National Observance was held at the National AIDS Memorial Grove. This year’s Presenting Partners were Wells Fargo and Quest Diagnostics. Mario Diaz, Vice President of Wells Fargo Foundation, introduced Dr. Rick Pesano, Vice President of Quest Diagnostics, who took the stage to speak of Quest’s ongoing commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS, and emphasized that we all must recommit ourselves to continue the fight in order to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Dr. Pesano’s remarks ended with the quote: “Act as if what you do today makes the difference. It does.” To listen to Dr. Pesano’s full remarks, please view the video below:
The theme of this year’s observance was ‘The Story Will Be Known By Future Generations.” Longtime AIDS and human rights activist and actress, Judith Light, was honored with the National Leadership Recognition Award. Her story begins at a time when national leadership in the AIDS epidemic required a particular kind of courage. Judith stepped up to provide much-needed visibility, support, money, and compassion. A well-known and accomplished actor, multiple Tony and Emmy award winner, Judith involved herself in the AIDS epidemic starting in the 1980’s, including playing the role of Jeanne White in the Ryan White Story. She’s also been a generous donor of time, energy, ideas, and ‘light’. Without hesitation, Judith brought her considerable reputation and influence during a time of crisis and stigma. She identifies as an activist, and has ‘walked the walk’ for over 30 years. Since the early days, she has lent her name, support, and energy by participating in marches and parades, and serving on committees and boards. She’s been a prodigious fundraiser, organizer, speaker, sponsor, and host.
“I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor,” said Light. “Too many lives have been lost to HIV/AIDS and too many of our friends and loved ones have struggled, not just fighting for their lives, but enduring endless discrimination and homophobia, which still exists today. We must continue sharing our stories and our passion to not only find a cure, but raise the level of awareness so everyone, particularly our children, know they are loved, cherished and respected for who they are.” To listen to Judith’s full remarks, please view the video below.
Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, received the Thom Weyand Unsung Hero Award. From a small group of concerned individuals working out of his apartment, Paul created one of the most amazing, comprehensive, and often overlooked responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 1984 Paul founded Mobilization Against AIDS (MAA), the nation’s first advocacy organization created to help improve the lives of people living with AIDS. He helped take over the AIDS Candlelight March, growing it to become the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, the world’s largest grassroots AIDS activity. After Paul left MAA he founded the Global AIDS Action Network (GAAN) and has served as the director of the AIDS Coalition Silicon Valley. To listen to Paul’s full remarks, please view the video below.
The Grove also awarded five scholarships to students this year as part of the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship Award Program, with Alexander Pacach taking the stage to speak to his past and current community service, educational and career goals focused on HIV prevention amongst young people. Funded through a grant from UnitedHealthcare, the $2,500 – $5,000 scholarships support the academic efforts of emerging young people who share Pedro’s passionate commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The scholarship program was renamed earlier this year in honor of AIDS educator, activist and reality television pioneer Pedro Zamora, who passed away twenty years ago from an AIDS-related illness. Former “MTV Real World” cast members and roommates of Pedro, Judd Winick and Pam Ling, announced the scholarships, and scholarship recipient Alexander Pacach took the stage. To listen to Alexander’s full remarks, please view the video below.
Sponsored by Wells Fargo and Quest Diagnostics, along with the support of many community partners, the World AIDS Day National Observance concluded with a gathering for the reading of the names of those engraved in 2014 into the Circle of Friends.