AIDS Grove: S.F. me­mo­rial ded­i­cates sec­tion to he­mo­phil­iacs who died of the dis­ease

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA - By John King John King is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: jk­ing@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @johnk­ings­fchron

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.

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