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“If the government was going to continue to act as if we didn’t exist ... then we would find our own way.” 
— Paul Monette, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

STORIES: The AIDS Monument in West Hollywood, California:
Remembers those we lost, those who survived, the protests and vigils, the caregivers
Celebrates those who step up when others step away
Educates future generations through lessons learned

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STORIES

Explore the STORIES

Behind every statistic of the AIDS epidemic are thousands of people whose stories continue to teach and inspire.
Explore the stories by clicking on the words.

Community Stigma Love Compassion Sacrifice Loss Pain Pride Courage Shame Hope Injustice Despair Dedication Suffering Artistry Family Friendship Isolation Helplessness Leadership Activism Devastation Fear Legacy Caregiving Inspiration Resilience Strength Rage

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'A mother's response to losing her child is like a crack of thunder across the world.'
'Sylvester was a pioneer in the gay community. And during a time when most gay entertainers were in the closet, he wasn't. Sylvester was proudly out, and he paved the way in so many ways.'
'My intention in presenting these works is to provoke my community into action.'
'Not only did he change the course of the Broadway musical with his production of A Chorus Line, but the course of my life as well.'
'Love doesnʼt end based on a test result.'
'It's taken me a long time to find forgiveness for them, to not view their deaths as them abandoning me to live with HIV on my own. But in my darkest moments of living with HIV, I've found compassion for them in ways I never thought I would.'
'My mom always talked about the incredible smile Manolo had. I like to think he looks down and smiles at a whole new generation that are living their lives loud and proud and open...'
'Max Robinson was an inspirational figure for me when I decided to become a TV journalist and news anchor.'
'I really miss Demian desperately, and I also miss dancing the Bill T. Jones master work, D-Man in the Waters. It was a tribute to Demian and to so many of the other people we lost.'
'The stigma is more dangerous than the disease. We still have a lot of fighting to do for the people who don’t have the privilege of cost-effective medication.'
'It was insulting to learn the LA Police Commission was in charge of certifying massage therapists… [It] was messing with the wrong HIV+ massage therapist.'
'We’d go up to a line of cops with tear gas grenades and horses and clubs.  And link arms and do a can-can. Really threw them off guard.'
- Kiyoshi Kuromiya
'Angie, who was known for her keen sense of fashion, was featured in Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary Paris is Burning about the drag balls and the houses that fiercely competed to win the trophies.'
'For me, there is a sweetness to remembering our close friendship of those early years and the extraordinary evolution of the pretty faced, slightly chubby blonde boy in the hideous blue velvet cape.'
'Every young man in ballet for future generations will be indebted to the mark that Rudolf Nureyev made on the art form. He has shaped the way we will craft our art forever.'
'I started keeping a list of our friends from our beloved skating family, and also started including friends from the dance and entertainment world. My list was getting long. It was at least 62 friends that had died by the early '90s.'
'I think back to the scared little boy who met Peter and now know you can’t ever be too much of yourself. Peter taught me that.'
'Being told for most of your life that it’s a miracle you are even here is very humbling. It makes you want to treasure the blessings and the failures in life, because at least you’re here to fail or succeed, because there’s so many who aren’t here any longer.'
"I have taken chances that have almost killed me, and I will keep on taking them.  I have nothing to lose.”
'His showmanship inspired other performers like Elton John, Lady Gaga and Cher to wow audiences with wild wardrobes, eye-popping glitz, and grandeur.'
'Speaking at rallies and demonstrations, she was loud, forceful and eloquent. By now she was known as the AIDS Diva.'
'About midway through the taping of the series, Pedro’s health began to decline, but he told producers that he wanted them to tell his story until the end.'
'Jaime was the only man I ever fell in love with. He was insanely beautiful, inside and out.'
'I have a vision of Emile reunited with all the dancers we’ve lost to AIDS and dancers we’ve lost over the eons, and I think to myself, my goodness, what a gorgeous performance that would make.'

'The death of a brother is like no other death. It is a unique event that can only be likened to an ending of the world.'
'I have "ghosted" my friends’ images so that those who are too young to remember the early days of AIDS epidemic can maybe understand, just a bit, what it's like to be the last one left.'
'(Glenn) Burke, who played for the Dodgers and Athletics, was the first and only MLB player to come out as gay during his career and the first to acknowledge it publicly.'
'I felt like I was in a horrible car accident where the car rolls over and over and all you hear is the sound of metal against metal, then silence .... Physically, you have survived, not even a scratch, but the world as you see it is no longer the same.'
'People with HIV trusted POZ more than they trusted even their own personal physicians or any non-profit organization.'
'Lance Loud became the first reality TV star. By coming out to an audience of 10 million TV viewers, Lance was the first openly gay person on American television and became an icon to the LGBTQ community.'
'Steven’s trademark series of tableaux-vivant … were produced in his Los Angeles studio, called Zanzibar, which became a hangout for visual artists, musicians, designers, drag queens, hustlers and others outside the cultural mainstream.'
'I recall your memorable speech before the Democratic National Convention in 1980, as you became the first African American and first gay man to be placed in nomination for the Vice Presidency of the United States from the floor of the convention.'
'I am coming out as a woman with AIDS because a lot of lesbians still think that they cannot get AIDS and I’m here to say that this can and did happen.'
'Tony was and will always be one of my very favorite directors. He taught me so much about filmmaking and acting.'
'Paul was full of passion and immensely loyal to those he befriended ... He was funny, smart, gossipy, flirtatious, curious, fully present in the moment -- which is to say that he was fully alive except, of course, that he was living with AIDS.'
'She was in such high demand that those hiring her would look the other way or enable her behavior rather than helping her or forcing her to deal with her drug addiction.'

'Mark not only shaped my adolescence, he shaped my ministry because I vowed to welcome all in the Church and celebrate that all — especially those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — are created in God's image, because my friend Mark was created in God's image!'
'The last time I saw [Jack] was at County Hospital when he was toward the end of his life.  It was a very sobering sight to see my good friend – who was so vibrant and funny and full of life – fading away.'
'As I moved from fear into love, I visualized darkness turning into something full of light, sparkly and golden, pumping life through my once polluted tunnels, now made into a magical network of veins transmitting healing forgiveness inside of me.'
'If I didn't play any song that reminded anyone of AIDS, there would be no music to be played.'
'I am grateful for how hard she fought to live long enough to help me grow into the almost-woman I was when she died. I will miss her forever.'
'My fairy godfathers may be gone, but their rainbow-colored fairy dust flows in my veins forever.'
'She named AIDS as one of the most deadly killers of African-Americans. "And I think anyone who sincerely cares about the future of black America had better be speaking out."'
'Albert entered the modeling world in an era when supermodels were thrust into the international spotlight and became celebrities in their own right.'
'His leadership served as a beacon of light to those of us lost in the sea of dying faces we could not save. Bernard took up a fight of which many other men shied away.'
'I’m not here in Washington to make people like me.  I’m here to speak about a national scandal, a scandal of neglect, indifference and abandonment.'
- Elizabeth Taylor
'I remember how devastating AIDS was in the New York State prison system. It was much worse than the public realizes or would imagine.'
'[Alexis] was ahead of her time. Despite her career suffering… she taught us to stay true to ourselves and fought for us to see a world that we had just not caught up to yet.'
'This/MY generation of artists — and OUR audiences — disappeared. You are standing on our generational, grave like, culturally curtailed, and tribally intrinsic sinkhole.'
'Ryan White was a teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who was expelled from his school due to his HIV status. He died when he was 18 years old.'
'My grandmother was a woman beyond her years.'
'It doesn’t matter whether it has been weeks, months or years. The pain of losing you always pinches me like lightning for a lifetime.'
'We would adjourn these meetings in memory of those that we had lost since the last time we met. And sometimes the adjournments would go for 30 minutes or more, as people openly wept about comrades who had fallen and people that had shared that common table with us.'
'Each moment I spent in the creative space with Howard Ashman remains with me every day of my life.'
'I want you to know that I’m still here and fighting. I am well and able to love in a way I couldn’t have imagined back then.'
'I feel like that motorcycle was their last gift to me … It's like they all said that they weren’t going to be here with me to share my life, so they were going to give me this incredible life to live.'
'The character Paul was based on Dante’s own experiences growing up poor, lonely, and ridiculed because he was gay.'
'... Evening settles in this exile of senses for our surrender,
one more friend’s death has clocked the day like a tolling bell.'
'The book implied that the first-known source of the HIV spread in the U.S. was Dugas. Media stories about Dugas exploded … In actuality, Dugas was not "Patient Zero" and the CDC never considered him as such. The CDC had labeled Dugas as "Patient O" (as in the letter O).'
'Richmond had the nickname, “Hollywood,” and inspired Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Days of Thunder.'
'Early polling showed a potential big win for Prop 64 – largely due to the fear and misinformation out there ... But our community rallied, and in four short months, we won the day.'
'Existence is a circle. Death sweeps the person back from where he came. Death is not an end.'
'I am here and I am present and I am fully awake. And I love my life and I am married to the greatest human on the planet and I have spirits around me that bathe me in light.'
'Daniel and Leanza held tight to each other, their delight lifted another notch as they basked in their final call. Every moment of grace, every example of bravery and resilience I have known from people living with HIV, can be summed up in that glorious instant of joy and empowerment.'
'Everywhere he went, he’d have his chalk, of course, in his pocket ...  All of the sudden, he’d just get down and just start drawing, and instantly there would be a crowd around him.'
'Does it really matter what disease you contracted or what you died of OR how pure your heart is and how deep you loved? They deserve respect and honor and I give them that till we meet again my angels. Love Big and Love Deep.'
'I met Aaron when he was 9 months old and cared for him until he died at the age of 18 months. This photograph was taken on his first and only birthday.'
'He was bedridden, blind, and suffering from dementia, yet still always Terry with a quick laugh, a smile that still lights up my life as I remember it.'
'Madame was gaudy, glamorous, and bitchy … a queer icon. Flowers offered prime-time television audiences the attitudes of 1970s-era gay men taking their first steps towards Gay Liberation.'
'He was Tanya Ransom, a drag queen. He was Michael Norman, an artist, educator and playwright. And he was a patient. And he was my father.'
'She was dying of a terminal illness, already a year into her death march.'
'As a Black trans woman who has been living with HIV for over 10 years, I just want to say it is okay to be nervous and overwhelmed. But dig deep and find that determination and tenacity to survive and thrive.'
'I never even told my mother I was gay and she didn't know. While lying there in what I perceived to be my deathbed, I thought that my mother would abandon me. She never did.'
'We decided to keep Brad’s diagnosis secret so Brad could work as long as possible. It had been hard enough for him to resurrect his career ... He refused to get any medical care for fear of discovery.'
'My goal was to criticize him and get people to laugh at him at the same time… So, I dreamed big. A big condom, that is. Draped over Jesse Helms’ house.'
'My Uncle told me that there was no shame in who I was, that yes, life will be hard but that it’s okay to be who I am. To stand tall as a gay man.'
'Ed had a secret that he kept from his friends: He was in the United States illegally ... This explained why he never sought medical attention after being diagnosed with AIDS.'
'When The Brady Bunch first aired in 1969, hiring an openly gay actor as the perfect father of the perfect TV family would not have been possible.'
'AIDS had a devastating impact on the professional and competitive ice-skating community, so Tai and I wanted to share some of our memories.'
'I'll soon be turning,
round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark
I'm aching to be free
The show must go on'
'We draw hope from the progress of science. We are blessed with heroes willing to stand up for truth, unbowed by withering assaults. On behalf of all of us, thank you, Tony Fauci.'
'We were all walking on thin ice.'
'When he found out that he had HIV, I think I was one of the first people he told, and we just wept like babies.'
'A Florida hospital chartered a private jet to fly a 27-year-old man diagnosed with AIDS to San Francisco, where he was deposited at a local AIDS foundation with $300 in cash.'
'Scott Smith was a longtime friend, business partner, political adviser and lover of San Francisco human rights leader Harvey Milk.'
'The LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion to name the LA County AIDS ward after Schrader in tribute to his courage, his vision and his tenacity.'
'I got here for Lawrence. He wanted me to thrive, not just survive ... I didn’t get here by forgetting. I came here by way of remembering, too.'
'I miss him all the time. He was a father figure to me and I wish he was around today, laughing his infectious laugh and giving me a shoulder to lean on.'
'Often, I dialog with newly diagnosed people, encouraging them to stay optimistic and not so much to worry about the future, as I have been positive for more than 35 years.'
'It’s fair to say that Paul Jabara wrote some major chapters of the Gay American Songbook.'
'When the father stepped out of the room and saw me, he hugged me and cried and cried and cried. He was as tall as me and his grief was so vast ... He kept saying his boy was gone.'
'HIV is certainly character-building. It’s made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I’d rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character.'
- Randy Shilts
'Vito would captivate audiences with his wit and his joyful, ferocious personality ... Not only was Vito opening our minds, educating us, entertaining us, and motivating us to act, he was building our community.'
'In 2008, I came home from the hospital to die from complications of HIV/AIDS … I wasn’t expected to live past that week. Miraculously, I lived, my work apparently not completed.'
'He said "you’re as sick as your secrets." He counseled young people about protecting themselves from contracting HIV.'
'We came to the gyms to gain, lose, socialize or lurk. For some, it was a competition to look fabulous and get whatever there was to be gotten -- especially if it meant themselves.'
'We must honor all these brave men and women. We must never forget they were here.'
'That interview saved my life. My mother always had PTL on and I was 12 when I heard your interview ... I suddenly knew that I could be gay and Christian, and I didn't have to kill myself.'
'In 1985, the first infant to die from AIDS in New York City was buried in a gravestone marked “SC-B1 1985” on Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx in New York. That grave is referred to by some as the Tomb of the Unknown Child.'
'Charles Ludlam was the king -- and sometimes queen -- of downtown theater.'
'Jeff taught me many things. But most importantly, he gave me my defiance. It saved my life.'
'My dad was in the hospital on the brink of death when we discovered he'd been living a double life ... and that he was infected with AIDS. Three weeks later, we found out he’d infected my mother.'
'Studio 54 defined the emerging age of celebrity.'
'The mom sat down next to him and they began to talk. After a few hours, she left but she returned the next day and the day after that.'
'He tried to live his life as normally as he could. He even went out to Fire Island, but when his skinny, KS-purpled body entered the pool, everyone else got out. My heart broke again.'
'I knew from the start Eric was HIV positive. Nothing seemed to matter more than to be near him.'
'When my friend Bob had only a few months left, my nephew Tommy was born. I remember one day, we drove out to the East Bay so Bob could cradle Tommy in his arms.'
'His tombstone simply reads: When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.'
'This is my tribute to those who were alone. They had no friends and no family. I miss all of you, and I continue to remember you and love you.'
'He drank Diet Dr. Pepper in glass bottles ... used plastic milk containers filled with water as weights ... listened to the Village People’s In the Navy as he combed my hair.'
'Sullivan was the first transgender man to be publicly known to identify as gay. His activism is considered to be one of the primary reasons for our current understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity as separate, unrelated concepts.'
'Let’s celebrate and enjoy Pride, but let’s also remember why we have Pride and let’s certainly never forget those who lost the battle.'
'Not a day goes by that I don't think of you, my creative brother from another mother. Peace. You went too soon but you left a legacy.'
'When Bob spoke, he gave hope to people with AIDS that someone with the President’s ear was in their court, part of their tribe, and might help usher in an era when the federal government actually gave a damn about fighting AIDS.'
'Lenny, Carlos, Jeffrey, Andrew, Eddie and many others are all heroes ... They pushed on, being injected, prodded, biopsied, examined, humiliated, ostracised and judged.'
'His AIDS diagnosis was front-page news for almost every major U.S. newspaper in the summer of 1985.'
'A mother's response to losing her child is like a crack of thunder across the world.'
'Sylvester was a pioneer in the gay community. And during a time when most gay entertainers were in the closet, he wasn't. Sylvester was proudly out, and he paved the way in so many ways.'
'Not only did he change the course of the Broadway musical with his production of A Chorus Line, but the course of my life as well.'
'It's taken me a long time to find forgiveness for them, to not view their deaths as them abandoning me to live with HIV on my own. But in my darkest moments of living with HIV, I've found compassion for them in ways I never thought I would.'

Special thanks to @TheAIDSMemorial on Instagram for preserving the legacy of the HIV/AIDS epidemic with stories of love, loss and remembrance. @TheAIDSMemorial #whatisrememberedlives

STORIES:
The AIDS Monument

The land for this Monument was donated by the City of West Hollywood where, during the height of the crisis, 1981-1996, the City suffered a devastating toll, losing thousands of its residents to the plague.

As of 2020, AIDS has killed approximately 725,000 people in the United States, more than all of the Americans who died in World Wars I and II combined.

Globally, through the end of 2019, AIDS has killed over 32.7 million people.

The Monument will be located on San Vicente Blvd., just north of the West Hollywood Library, and across from the Pacific Design Center.

The AIDS epidemic
is not over.

Tens of thousands of Americans are infected with HIV each year, and many still die of AIDS. Stigma against those with HIV persists. Income inequality and the lack of equal access to health care remain the greatest obstacles to life-saving treatment for the most vulnerable Americans.

This Monument reminds us to never forget our history and inspires us to continue to fight for equal access to quality health care, for expanded civil rights, and for a cure.

Photo courtesy of Donald Ragland