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Hundreds Mark World AIDS Day With Renewed Energy, Urgency

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    Hundreds of people gathered Thursday in San Francisco for the annual World AIDS Day. (Published Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016)

    Hundreds of people gathered Thursday in San Francisco for the annual World AIDS Day.

    Many in attendance touted medical advances but also noted the fight must continue. They worry that those very advances could be in jeopardy under under a Donald Trump presidency.

    AIDS activists and families affected by the disease shared stories of loss and hope. Marcy Fraser was a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital as the AIDS epidemic unfolded in the 1980s.

    "It felt like we banded together to do what other people wouldn’t do," Fraser said. "I’m grateful for the progress we have made. I have a completely different understanding of what a virus is and how it works and what we don’t know."

    Fraser joined hundreds of others in Golden Gate Park to mark significant progress in fighting AIDS and offering reminders that there is still so much at stake.

    John Cunningham, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial, said it's critical the progress of the past two decades doesn't get undone by a new administration.

    "For all of us, to realize that so many rights and so many expanded freedoms, causes of equality, that we have worked so hard for over the last 25 to 30 years are at risk, I believe it’s all our responsibility to make sure we hold our government accountable," Cunningham said.

    Among those honored at Thursday’s ceremony was Ryan White, whose story many credit with getting the world to pay attention to the AIDS epidemic. Ryan contracted HIV in 1984 after a blood transfusion, and parents of his classmates who feared a then-misunderstood disease fought to have him kicked out of his Indiana school.

    Ryan died in 1990 at age 18. His mother accepted the award Thursday.

    "It's such a proud moment to remember those who have gone before Ryan, even after Ryan, people who have made a difference in the AIDS community," Jeanne White Ginder said.

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