The other day when I was clearing out some boxes from the attic in preparation for our move, I found something I didn’t even remember we had. It’s a pack that was given to Tom to keep personal items in when he was volunteering at the NAMES display in Washington, D.C., in 1996. By that time, we’d lost our friends Steve R and Jeff to AIDS-related illnesses. Within a year, we would also lose John and Tim R.
Pete Martinez, who co-founded the Houston AIDS Quilt NAMES Project in 1988 and was the workshop manager, was part of those days in Washington, where our friend Amy volunteered alongside Tom and me, and made them some of the most memorable of our lives. Pete died in 2001.
We will never forget those lost, and World AIDS Day is one day when the entire community of AIDS and HIV activists, caregivers, and surviving friends and families can join together in remembering them and how far we’ve come since the early days of the pandemic. As well as being a day of remembrance, it’s an opportunity to educate and advocate, and clicking on the above link can provide a lot of good information.
This year’s World AIDS Day theme is Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation. That is the hope. That is what we all continue to strive for and the way we look forward. But we will always look back, too, and honor those who inspired science, medicine, government, religion, and society to move toward more tolerant, more compassionate, and more vocal reactions to a health crisis that robbed the world of too much.
I will never forget you, my friends. Thank you for changing my life.