Untold stories shared on 22nd annual World AIDS Day in SF

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A somber observance in San Francisco marked the 22nd annual World AIDS Day on Tuesday. It was a time to tell stories about how far the battle has come and how much work remains to be done.

"In the early years, most of us didn't tell the full stories of our lost loved ones. We were silent about how people died," former head of Levi Strauss Bob Haas said.

It was the disease no one would talk about.

"25,000 Americans dead before their president would even speak," State Sen. Mark Leno (D - San Francisco) said.

But now, on this 22nd World AIDS Day, people are telling those stories, from pioneering caregivers to the former head of Levi Strauss.

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"Wishing that there was something more we could have done for him and this is where the hanky homes in. And all the others in those early days," Focus Diagnostics' Dr. Holly Batterman said.

"Brothers, sisters, daughter and sons, living with AIDS," Haas said.

But for every story that's told publicly, there are hundreds more than have yet to be told. And on this World AIDS Day, the efforts continued to capture those stories in a modern-day digital tapestry.

"My partner, the love of my life, died of HIV on Sept. 6, 1992," Pete Fiske said.

Fiske had never told that story until he went inside a booth for the online video project, Generations HIV.

"In the quiet of that booth, they can record and document their own stories," National AIDS Memorial Executive Director John Cunningham said.

It's nearly always emotional. "I went in the booth and cried my eyes out and talked about him," Fiske said.

Fiske is a fixture in the Leather Community, which is now being recognized with an award for its early response to the epidemic.

"The AIDS Emergency Fund, to help pay for housing for those brothers and sisters we had that couldn't pay for their own rent," he said.

The San Francisco model of care has been copied worldwide and now there's a scholarship for the work that's left to be done.

"I hope to become an infectious disease specialist with a focus on HIV and AIDS," one speaker said.

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