June 2, 2006
On Thursday, about 200 people gathered at a San Francisco performing arts center to hear elected officials, AIDS activists, and long-term survivors reflect on the 25 years that have passed since CDC first published a report about the disease that would become known as AIDS.
The CDC report centered on a mysterious illness that had been diagnosed in five gay men in Los Angeles. However, the worst years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States would become closely associated with San Francisco. As of last month, the city reported 17,988 cumulative AIDS deaths, or 22 percent of California's total.
"We took the biggest bite of this wormy apple that is AIDS, but we were generous with what we learned," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who came to Congress in 1987. Pelosi recalled the stigma that attached itself to AIDS in the early years and cautioned that elected officials must not become complacent in funding HIV research and prevention. "I never thought we would be sitting and standing here 25 years later still without a cure," she said.
Overall, the tone of event was mostly celebratory. The Rev. Yvette A. Flunder of City of Refuge United Church of Christ reminded the audience of the model treatment and prevention programs the city has provided. "This is a praise party. This is a thank you celebration and a thank God celebration," she said.
Flunder invited anyone who felt comfortable identifying themselves as HIV-positive to join her on stage. More than 40 people accepted, clasping hands while the audience gave them a standing ovation and joined in singing "We Shall Overcome."