May 14—A virtual candlelight vigil to remember local people who have died of AIDS-related complications is set for Sunday.
The Boulder County AIDS Project and the Interfaith AIDS Coalition of Boulder County are hosting the virtual memorial, which is part of the annual International AIDS Candlelight Memorial held around the world. The memorial starts at 7 p.m. Sunday. To join through Zoom, go to tinyurl.com/8kz2e24z.
Boulder County AIDS Project Development Director Sarah Annecone said that while there's now medication to effectively treat HIV and reduce a patient's viral load to undetectable levels, the organization still lost several clients last year to AIDS related complications.
"Every year, there are names added to the list," she said. "People forget. This is 2021 but, if you don't have access to medication, it's 1985. Access to medication is not an equitable situation in the United States or even in Boulder County."
Annecone also has experience with losing loved ones to AIDS-related complications, including her brother-in-law. She said he was diagnosed in an emergency room in Los Angeles in 2000 and died three months later. He moved to Boulder after he was diagnosed to live with his mother and was a Boulder County AIDS Project client.
"He suspected he might be HIV positive, but was way too scared to get tested," she said. "The stigma still exists and really creates an obstacle to getting tested."
Sunday's event will be the first time the local remembrance is held virtually. Last year's event was canceled because of the pandemic, while organizers said they planned a virtual event this year to ensure those living with HIV can attend safely.
"We're taking a very cautious approach with the population we serve," Annecone said.
The program includes the reading of the names of 172 local people who died of AIDS-related complications, poetry, live music, and reflections by faith community members.
The walk typically starts at the Boulder County AIDS Project office, goes through downtown Boulder and stops at the AIDS Memorial Garden along Boulder Creek. Camille Hook, a longtime volunteer with Boulder County AIDS Project and member of the Interfaith AIDS Coalition, took photos along the route to create a slideshow for the virtual event.
"It's so important to memorialize the people we've lost," she said. "There's great determination to find cures, to honor those who have passed and to remember the suffering and the historical suffering. It's about valuing every person's worth and dignity."
She said she remembers her brother-in-law during the walk. He was a an infectious disease director in South Carolina who, while not personally affected, was an expert in the care of patients with HIV and researched therapies. He died six years ago.
"I'm holding his career and care and the great impact he's had when I walk," she said.