$4M AIDS Memorial Coming to NYC

By Susan Jones | March 28, 2013 | 11:46 AM EDT

The New York City AIDS Memorial will feature an 18-foot steel canopy as the dramatic gateway to the new St. Vincent's Hospital Park in the West Village neighborhood. For more information or to support the memorial. (Photo from New York City AIDS Memorial website)

(CNSNews.com) - Fund-raising is in full swing for a memorial to AIDS victims in New York City.

The final design, unveiled this week, includes an 18-foot steel canopy, a fountain, granite benches and a granite paving surface, which will be carved with "educational and commemorative text."

The memorial, to be located in a park next to the new St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village, will honor New York City’s 100,000-plus people who have died from AIDS and to celebrate the caregivers and activists who responded to fight the disease.

The fund-raising goal is $4 million, with donations from both private and public sources.

At the unveiling of the memorial's design Wednesday evening, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer committed $1 million in taxpayer money toward the project.

"When it is completed, the AIDS Memorial will be an important place of reflection for so many of us who lost loved ones and friends -- and it will also be a reminder to future generations that New York City must be forever vigilant when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our residents," Stringer said. "That's why I am extremely proud to commit $1 million in capital dollars to make it possible for us to construct this new and vitally important landmark, so that our City -- and the world -- will never forget."   

Kevin Jennings, a former Obama administration official, credited AIDS activists with advancing the entire LGBT movement.  

"So much of the progress made by the LGBT movement is owed to the incredible AIDS activists who catalyzed organizations and advocacy that continue to serve us today. Their story is an inspirational one of a community uniting to fight for its very life, and ensuring that this story is preserved and taught to future generations couldn't be more important," said Jennings, who now heads a foundation that works for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender causes.

On the same day the memorial was unveiled, the U.S. Supreme Court was in its second day of hearings devoted to same-sex marriage, something that was unthinkable in the early 1980s when the first AIDS cases emerged among homosexual men in the United States.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said it's fitting that the memorial will be located in the West Village, where some of the first AIDS cases turned up. "[T]his memorial will connect existing generations of New Yorkers with their history and help inspire young people to become active in the ongoing fight against HIV/AIDS, which is still ravaging so many of our communities in all five boroughs of the City."

The HIV/AIDS virus is spread by blood-to-blood contact. It is primarily a sexually transmitted disease that is most prevalent among men who have sex with men. In many cases, it is entirely preventable.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, men who have sex with men represent approximately 2 percent of the US population, yet they are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2010 -- despite years of education about ways to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission -- men who have sex with men accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections.