Manhattan AIDS Memorial Recalls Impact of City's Epidemic

Coiniciding with World AIDS Day, a new memorial for victims of the disease was unveiled Thursday in Manhattan. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.

Some of the New Yorkers who have died from AIDS since 1981 - many of them shunned when they got sick in the epidemic's early days - are being honored in the city's first AIDS memorial, which opened this World AIDS day.

"Ultimately, this memorial is really about acknowledgement. Acknowledgement for those how who died. Acknowledgement for those who survived. Acknowledgement for those who fought. And acknowledgement for those who continue fighting," said Christopher Tepper, who helped to launch the project five years ago and raise the nearly $7 million needed to build it.

The memorial, inscribed with a Walt Whitman poem, sits across from the site of the old St. Vincent's hospital, which was demolished to make way for luxury condos. 

In the 1980s, St. Vincent's housed the first AIDS ward on the East Coast.

Ed Barron tested positive for HIV 30 years ago.

"There was no hope. There was nothing," he said. "I watched numerous households of gay men pass before my eyes."

The canopy structure is meant to invite people into the space so they can remember and reflect.   

Mateo Paiva designed it.

"This is not a memorial of something that is finished, that is past. This is something that is ongoing," Paiva said.

New HIV diagnoses in the city are at a low, but 37 million people live with the virus around the world, helped by drugs that can dramatically slow the disease. And African-American men are contracting it at a disproportionately high rate.

Advocates who came to the defense of AIDS victims when very few people did say there is still plenty of work to do.

"The only way we'll ever defeat this, and the forces that allowed it to happen to begin with, is to remember every single day, we're not putting up with injustice, we're not putting up with inequality," said Andrew Velez, an AIDS activist.

And the memorial, they say, will give people a daily reminder of that struggle. 

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