By sharing the story of the struggle against HIV/AIDS, we remember, in perpetuity, the lives lost, we offer healing and hope to survivors, and we inspire new generations of activists in the fight against stigma, denial, and hate for a just future.
The origins of the National AIDS Memorial began nearly 30 years ago at the height of the AIDS pandemic when a small group of San Franciscans devastated by the AIDS crisis sought to find a sacred space to honor loved ones who were lost to AIDS. Known simply as “the Grove”, that place was created in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as a dedicated space in the national landscape where millions of Americans touched directly or indirectly by AIDS could gather to heal, hope, and remember.
As the AIDS pandemic grew, with hundreds of thousands of lives being lost to a disease that showed no mercy or discrimination, the nation too needed to heal and to ensure that those lives were never forgotten. In 1996, legislation by U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, elevating “the Grove” as the nation's sole federally-designated National AIDS Memorial.
In the years that have followed, the work of the National AIDS Memorial has expanded to ensure that the lives of people who died from AIDS are never forgotten and the story of AIDS is known by future generations so that never again will a community be harmed because of fear, silence, discrimination, or stigma.
Today, the history and lessons of AIDS are at the core of all of the programs and work of the National AIDS Memorial.
The Grove now includes thousands of names inscribed within the ten acre memorial within the Circle of Friends, Hemophilia circle, Artists portal and on boulders and benches throughout its beautiful landscape. Thousands of volunteers have given more than 225,000 hours of their time to maintain the grounds and ensure it is preserved as a living memorial.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is now under the stewardship of the National AIDS Memorial, ensuring that this powerful symbol of AIDS and activism can be used to educate people around the world about a devasting time in our nation’s history. Within each of the Quilt’s nearly 50,000 panels are sewn the names of more than 105,000 lives lost to AIDS. Each year, thousands of panels of the Quilt are displayed throughout the U.S. and world.
Through unique storytelling programs, like Surviving Voices and Q&AIDS, the National AIDS Memorial both ensures that the vast, diverse stories of surviving voices from the crisis years are captured and curated and documents how people from different generations have experienced and been affected by HIV/AIDS, encouraging communication between them.
Our work is also helping inspire and develop the next generation of leaders, through the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship and Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award.
Looking to the future, the National AIDS Memorial has launched a national feasibility study to examine the possibility for creating a permanent national “Interpretive Center for Social Conscience” in San Francisco, where the story of AIDS will be told in perpetuity and leveraged to advocate broadly for human rights. It would serve as a center of social justice and a platform for action. The story of AIDS merits a place where the connectedness of the fight against it to other struggles for human rights in our past, present, and future will be made clear, and seen as a vital part of the greater struggle for social justice throughout history.
The National AIDS Memorial relies solely on funding from personal donors and corporate partners to support its mission and programs.