SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – San Francisco will be marking World AIDS Day with several events at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park on Wednesday and Thursday, including one honoring Cleve Jones, who founded the AIDS Quilt in the 1980s, according to a press release.

The grove is the only federally-designated memorial to those who’ve died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Since the AIDS epidemic was first recognized 41 years ago, 675,000 Americans have died, including over 25,000 in San Francisco alone.

The human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, has been able to be virally suppressed with medication in many cases since the mid-1990s, though access is sometimes challenging. But as KRON4 previously reported, 72 San Franciscans died in 2020 from HIV-related causes, 2019 saw 70 deaths, 2018 saw 73 and 2017 saw 83.

Jones, 68, will be receiving a lifetime of commitment award from the memorial grove. He will also be speaking at a two-hour event there starting at 11 a.m. Thursday. The event will also feature Tyler TerMeer, the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and John Cunningham, CEO of the memorial. The press release stated Mayor London Breed has been invited, but not if she will be attending. The event is free and no RSVP is required.

The program will feature three conversations:

  • “Reflections with Cleve Jones and 35 years of the Quilt”
  • “The State of the Epidemic Today with Leaders on the Frontlines”
  • “Young Leaders Making an Impact”

It will be followed by a reading of names and a community lunch.

The quilt, founded in 1985, is the world’s largest piece of folk art, consisting of 54 tons of stitched fabric panels each to memorialize someone lost to AIDS-related complications.

The previous night, Wednesday, Nov. 30, there will be a gala at the grove at 7:15 p.m. The private Light in the Grove gala event will include hundreds of guests, and ticket sales will support the memorial’s programs.

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“Each year on December 1st, the world comes together to commemorate World AIDS Day,” the press release stated. “This important awareness day remains a time to reflect on our worldwide response to HIV/AIDS while honoring the lives of those lost to AIDS-related illnesses. On this day, organizations renew their commitment to supporting the wellbeing of those with HIV, as well as those at risk for infection.”