Today is the 30th annual observation of World AIDS Day. Thirty years of remembering those we have lost, celebrating those who are still with us, recognizing those who did and still do the work of care and research, and renewing our community pledge to work for a cure in our lifetimes.
GSBA was a fledgling business association in the 80’s when we started to see the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community. We too felt the pain and loss of losing members, leadership, friends and neighbors, and even some of our first GSBA Presidents. In a time when HIV/AIDS was devastating LGBTQ communities, before the disease even had a name, we saw our friends and neighbors rise up and offer help anywhere they could. Let’s take a moment to remember our friends and family who were lost.
From a common enemy came new partnerships and quickly growing organizations. Northwest AIDS Foundation (now Lifelong AIDS Alliance), Chicken Soup Brigade, Seattle AIDS Support Group (now Seattle Area Support Group), Gay City, POCAAN, Entre Hermanos, ACT UP, Queer Nation, Seattle Counseling Services (open since 1969), and many more took up the mantle of caring for those who could no longer care for themselves. Alongside the almost daily sting of loss, we also saw the power and hope displayed in the simplest act of holding a hand, feeding the sick soup, or changing a bedsheet. We think about the work of Bailey Boushay House, the first skilled nursing facility in the country dedicated to meeting the needs of those with HIV/AIDS.
Nurturing grew to activism, which formed into organization. Organization led to advocacy, and advocacy began to lead to change. Today we live in the birthplace of HIV/AIDS research progress where labs just miles from downtown Seattle are developing and testing the first HIV vaccines. King County was the first region in the nation to reach a worldwide milestone of record breaking HIV testing, awareness, and treatment. These are incredible feats to be celebrated, and is a testament to the hard work and dedication of those who have put in countless hours, days, and years to get us this far.
There is still much work to be done, as HIV/AIDS resources are not equitable in testing and treatment. We know that communities of color and immigrant communities are among the highest reported numbers of new infections. We know that access to testing and treatment is more difficult for the undocumented community. That is why GSBA is proud to support our members, many of whom are mentioned above, who do this work day in, day out, working to provide and expand access to services for all.
We encourage you to get tested, know your status, and do your part in the fight for a cure. Learn more about World AIDS Day and the countless opportunities for you get involved. Contact any of the groups linked above to find where they need your support. And find out how you can be involved with the AIDS Memorial Pathway, a community-driven place of remembrance and reflection at Cal Anderson Park.
With gratitude and hope for a better future for all,