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Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights: National AIDS Memorial honors Fauci, Ho on World AIDS Day

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From left: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. David Ho during the National AIDS Memorial’s virtual World AIDS Day commemoration on Dec. 1, 2020.

National AIDS Memorial on Tuesday honored Drs. Anthony Fauci and David Ho
during its virtual World AIDS Day event.

Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, during a panel that ABC News Chief Health and Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton moderated talked about treating people with HIV/AIDS during the first years of the epidemic.

related to these people,” said Fauci. “They were young men who previously
had been very healthy and they were in a mysterious disease.”

1981, 2 and 3 we knew it was an infection. It had to be an infection,” he
added. “We knew that it was new, but it was a very unique experience
dealing with something that was killing a lot of people and you didn’t know
what it was. That is a very unique experience in medicine.”

director of Columbia University’s Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, echoed

was a mysterious illness, that was seemingly transmissible and it was killing
young gay men one after another,” said Ho.

Ho, like Fauci, also said many gay men with HIV/AIDS died alone because their families had shunned them.

were often dying alone, shunned by family and friends because of this transmissible
illness and we knew it was obviously spreading and yet there was no effective
intervention that was meaningful in any way,” said Ho.

Ho and
Fauci received the National AIDS Memorial’s National Recognition Leadership
Award. John Cunningham, executive director of the San Francisco-based
organization, during the event announced Ho and Fauci’s names have been added
to the memorial’s “Circle of Friends” in the city’s Golden Gate Park.

nearly four decades, these two individuals have stood at the forefront,”
said Cunningham.

year’s World AIDS Day took place nearly four decades after the first cases of
what became known as AIDS were reported. It also coincides with the coronavirus

Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are 13,696,060 confirmed coronavirus
cases in the U.S. The pandemic has also killed more than 270,000 Americans.

Robert Garcia, the openly gay mayor of Long Beach, Calif., is among those who participated in the virtual World AIDS Day event.

during a panel with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chicago Mayor Lori
Lightfoot and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that ABC News’ “GMA3”
Co-Anchor T.J. Holmes moderated noted his mother and stepfather both died from
the coronavirus over the summer. Garcia also discussed both pandemics’ impact
on the LGBTQ community.

we think about and remember everyone that has left us because of HIV and AIDS, for
me as a gay man, it means an enormous amount knowing the amount of sacrifice
that has happened within our own LGBTQ+ community throughout this terrible
virus and the damage it’s done to our community, to friends of mine, to people
and mentors that I look up to and respect,” said Garcia. “And it
reminds us that we have to be strong because things can get better and that’s
the case with this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ho also
drew parallels between the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the coronavirus pandemic.

was relatively speaking slow and insidious and yet COVID-19 hit us like a
tsunami,” he said.

Ho also
noted “it looks like the vaccines and therapies are emerging extremely
rapidly in an unprecedented fashion” for the coronavirus, whereas an HIV
vaccine remains elusive. Ho and Fauci also discussed the way that behavioral
changes can curb the spread of HIV and the coronavirus.

behavior is quite challenging to predict and certainly to modify,” said
Ho. “We have learned that in HIV for example, wearing a condom could go a
long way in preventing sexual prevention of the virus. And in COVID-19 wearing
a mask would similarly cut down transmission, but it’s very hard for people to
apply some of these measures.”

acknowledged “one of the things that has been dominant and very, very
difficult to deal with with COVID-19 is the divisiveness in our society in which
messaging and conduct related to one’s own personal responsibility as well as
your societal responsibility has been really completely distorted by the divisiveness
as where public health measures have taken on an almost a statement as opposed
whether it’s going to have an impact on the broad health of everyone.” He
also pointed to continued resistance to wearing masks and other prevention
measures in parts of the country where coronavirus rates continue to skyrocket.

still have people who refuse to wear a mask, who refuse to have physical
distancing because they think all for this is a hoax or its fake news,”
said Fauci.

didn’t have that with HIV,” he added. “There were another set of
behavioral issues that got in the way, but this is an extra added something
that I have never experienced with and I am really stunned by it.”

House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David also
participated in the event that actress Judith Light hosted.

Lives Matter Co-founder Alicia Garza, Marked by COVID Co-Founder Kristin
Urquiza and Cleve Jones participated in a panel that David moderated. Rev. Naomi
Washington-Leaphart, director of Philadelphia’s Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs,
delivered the invocation.

year has been an unprecedented year for global health, unprecedented even by
pandemic standards,” said Light. “We face a grim reality. Our nation
continues to struggle in the fight against COVID-19 … 2020 also marks 40
years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States.”

this World AIDS Day, our hearts and minds open we are spotlighting the
interconnectedness between two pandemics that while having their differences, have
haunting similarities,” she added.

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