S.F. memorial dedicates section to hemophiliacs who died of the disease
There’s a new place of solace within the National AIDS Memorial Grove: a memorial circle devoted to victims of the disease who were hemophiliacs.
About 300 people attended a ceremony Saturday morning in Golden Gate Park to dedicate the space, which has several benches inscribed with the names of victims, most of whom died between 1983 and the mid-’90s. Shrubs were planted along the circle and then family members read the names of victims, each name accompanied by the ringing of a Tibetan bell.
The victims had been infected in the early 1980s by the injection of blood-clotting products for hemophiliacs that were contaminated by plasma tainted with HIV.
The best-known victim was Ryan White, an Indiana middle-school student who at first was banned from his school after being diagnosed. His case received international attention and the teenager eventually was befriended by celebrities including President Ronald Reagan, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and singer Elton John.
“It took the innocence of a young boy to begin to shake the bigotry and the hatred” directed by many people toward many of the men, women and children affected by the disease, said John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove.
An estimated 10,000 hemophiliacs eventually died, Cunningham said.
The grove’s first redwood was planted in 1991, and it was declared a national memorial in 1996. There are several circles of contemplation, but this is the first one dedicated to a specific set of victims.
“The hemophiliac victims are such a unique community, in that they were affected by the tainted blood supply,” Cunningham said. “It’s important that we all unite” in overall remembrance of the roughly 750,000 Americans who are estimated to have died of AIDS.