Basilica to observe World AIDS Day

(Courtesy: Valley AIDS Council)

In commemoration of World AIDS Day, the public is invited to attend an event at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle on Wednesday.

World AIDS Day takes place every year on Dec. 1. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who died from an AIDS-related illness, according to its official site.

This year’s theme is “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.”

South Texas Equality Project, in collaboration with Valley AIDS Council and community partners, will be hosting this year’s event. Partners include: Mount Calvary Christian Church, LULAC RGV Rainbow Council, GenTEX, Access Esperanza Clinics, RGV Trans Closet and Art That Heals.

The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Basilica, located at 400 N. San Juan Blvd. Several things are on the agenda for the event, such as a congressional proclamation, a procession and Mass. Other activities also include a series of speakers from the community, poetry readings, tabling from local organizations and live music.

Additionally, organizers of the event ask supporters to use the hashtag #WorldAIDSDay on Wednesday to commemorate the “important international annual observation,” the release said.

There will also be a short tribute for the late Marian Strohmeyer, a long-time civil rights leader and healthcare advocate who was a part of the Sisters of Mercy. Strohmeyer is also the founder of Comfort House, a community-wide ministry whose mission is to provide a peaceful, homelike environment where a person may die in peace and with dignity while surrounded by loved ones.

According to the release from Valley AIDS Council, Strohmeyer was a champion for people living with HIV and AIDS at a time when they were shunned by society and family.

“World AIDS Day continues to be an important opportunity to honor those lives lost to the global AIDS pandemic, to reflect on the work still left to be done to shatter the stigma, and to reaffirm our commitment to bringing an end to the AIDS pandemic,” the release stated.

Here in the Rio Grande Valley, leaders from the community made history in 1995, at the height of the pandemic in the Valley and the borderlands, after hosting a non-denominational, all-faiths World AIDS Day observation at the Basilica, according to the release.

The following year, those leaders hosted another first-of-its-kind event: a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Now, some of these same leaders, such as Frank Mendez, are involved in hosting this year’s observation.