“This was of the most impactful images from those days….days that were very painful…” is one recent comment about the above picture.
The sobering image re-released from ACT UP on social media over the weekend is a reminder of the devastation AIDS has had on the LGBT community since its outbreak in the 1980’s. World AIDS Day is on December 1.
The now-famous picture is of San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) and was taken by Eric Luse of The Chronicle in 1993.
In the portrait the majority of the men are dressed in black, some in white.
“The men in white are the surviving members of the original San Francisco Gay Men’s choir (sic). The others represent those lost to AIDS,” reads the caption.
Luse released the same photo three years later, but this time with an amendment to the caption.
“The Gay Men’s Chorus posed to illustrate the impact of AIDS. Those dressed in black, with their backs turned, represent those who had died.
Today, all their backs would be turned because the obituary list is now 47 names longer than the chorus roster. For each man singing these days, more than one chorus member has died of AIDS.”
This information started the choral members saying before each performance, “I sing for two.”
The SFGMC also maintains their “Fifth Section,” a list of members who have been lost to AIDS over the years,”Their names are memorialized in our concert programs and in the list below. Their spirit lives on with us and we honor their memory” they site on the webpage.
Recently, the chorus canceled an international tour focusing instead on the political climate at home:
“With a divisive political climate in the United States, marked by an increase in dangerous and hostile rhetoric against the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus cancelled their European tour in favor of taking its message and music on the road across five southern states to promote universal equality and inclusiveness, and the value in treating all individuals – irrespective of differences – with dignity,” They said in a statement.
According to a 2015 report from the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, there are a “total of 13,200 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) were diagnosed while living in San Diego County and reported through December 31, 2014. PLWHA in San Diego County are most commonly white, male, aged 30 to 39 years, and have male sex partners.”
An updated report is scheduled to be released in Spring 2018.
For more information on HIV/AIDS, you can visit the San Diego LGBT Community Center by clicking HERE.