Here we are again at another World AIDS Day (begun in 1987), and 25 million people have died of this disease. Progress in fighting it has been so remarkable that people don’t use the term “pandemic” any more, which is good.
But the burden and the horror of AIDS has shifted — from white homosexual males who transported HIV around like so much airline baggage, and shared freely if unwittingly — to the third world, to women, to children, and to minorities. The bad side of this generation-long struggle against AIDS is that access to health care is not fair, justice or equal. Those who can afford health care have gotten access to today’s wonderful medications which allow them to manage the immune deficiency and get on with their lives.
Those who cannot get access to such medications (including the millions in third world nations who can’t even get clean water) still suffer the same pain and the same potential future as those whose names are on the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
I am proud to be on the Board of Directors of a fairly new local non-profit entity here in Los Angeles, Hollywood Remembers. Two nights ago, in anticipation of World AIDS Day, Hollywood Remembers staged its third annual consciousness– and fund-raising event, premiering the new rock/blues musical “Red Ribbon,” conceived and written by Joe Lawrence and directed by Jerry Craig. It tells the courageous story of six people whose lives were so heavily impacted by HIV and AIDS in the early 1990s just as the red AIDS ribbon was becoming a national symbol of the fight.
At the end of the evening our Board present $2,500 to Women Alive L.A., a grass-roots organization helping mostly minority women in their struggle against HIV and AIDS. Executive Director Carrie Broadus was here to speak to the audience—preach, really, about the fight we will not give up until AIDS is conquered—and to receive the check. I am hopeful that when our annual accounting is done, we’ll be able to send Women Alive even more. Much of our work has been generously underwritten by corporate and other non-profit sponsors, including Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles, but many small donations at the door provided more than a thousand dollars and proof that people still care.
During the intermission, ushers collected scribe tickets on which people in the audience wrote the names of loved ones they have lost to AIDS. Every year I get teary just jotting down a few of the names of those friends I lost, but I was overwhelmed again this year to see that the enormous red ribbon on the banner (pictured above) being hoisted to the ceiling was not big enough to hold the names. Perhaps the heart of God is bigger than our banners, bigger even that the AIDS Memorial Quilt itself, which is the largest work of folk art in the world (nearly 1.3 million square feet).
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, the 576 square feet on exhibit at Hollywood Lutheran Church will be up through Sunday, December 6. Come and pay your respects, light a candle, and make a donation. It will be well used to help people with HIV/AIDS continue living and fighting.
—Pastor Dan Hooper