Community comes together for World AIDS Day

Group organizers from Stonewall Alliance Chico, Caring Choices and the Lutheran Faith Church gathered community members on Sunday to memorialize the fight against AIDS. Around twenty residents of Chico showed their support during the event by sharing personal, emotional stories and information.

As everyone arrived for the event, they greeted each other warmly and enjoyed refreshments. There was a sense of solidarity and support in the room.

Stonewall Alliance representative Alyssa Larson led the event. She presented information on services that are provided by the Alliance such as free and confidential testing. Then, Reverend Ben Colahan, who was a pastor with the Lutheran Faith Church, shared the church’s view of wanting to be more accepting and helpful to those afflicted with AIDS.

The event started off with Larson showing videos from 2012 and 2018 that informed attendees on the history and current state of the AIDS crisis. The videos showed the struggle of people living with HIV and AIDS and how difficult it can be for some to get the necessary medications. Those that must find ways to afford expensive treatments are put under an enormous amount of stress.

After the videos were shared, everyone moved to the center of the room and sat in a circle to share thoughts and stories.

Pastor Colahan asked everyone to grab a candle and a paper containing names of those that had lost their lives to HIV and AIDs. He then shared words of hope and remembrance while lighting his candle. The flame was passed around the room with each person speaking the names of the lost from the pages. The words “rest in power” were recited by each individual as they read names followed by the groups response “we honor and remember you.” Once each candle was lit, people were encouraged to speak names of others they wanted to have remembered. A prayer was said for each and a moment of silence followed. The silence was powerful and spoke to the deep impact everyone shared.

The silence was broken by piano music and song. Larson encouraged those that wanted to share memories and stories to the group to speak. After a silence, people spoke up about the losses they have felt. Some had had lost loved ones and told of the sadness that came from that loss. Others spoke of their discovery of having the virus and their battles with it. It was an emotional and powerful experience.

Thanks were given to all in attendance and sentiments of unity were shared. Everyone was encouraged to stay and enjoy the prepared food and to converse with each other.

Jacob Collier can be reached at [email protected]