York, PA
United States
Albemarle Park, Southeast corner York AIDS Memorial Garden since 1 December 1996
without names
Volunteers restore York AIDS memorial to spark awareness
About 600 people being treated for virus in York, health official says
When Clint Rivero learned that he was infected with HIV in 1989, he prepared to die. Struggling with addiction and the legacy of an abusive childhood, Rivero said he was, in a way, grateful that the potentially fatal virus might offer an end to his suffering. Twenty-four years later, however, his perspective has changed. "There is a way up and out," he said Saturday as he stood with a rake in hand. "HIV lives with me. I don't live with HIV."

While he spoke, volunteers around him swept leaves and brush away from red bricks patterned in a ribbon, working to restore an AIDS memorial at Albemarle Park in York. Rivero is open about his status because "silence equals death," he said. But as doctors' ability to treat the disease improves, he is growing increasingly worried that the conversation is fading about the threat of HIV/AIDS. People don't realize "that AIDS is alive and well in York County," he said.

Family First Health treats about 600 HIV positive patients through the Caring Together program, which it runs in conjunction with WellSpan Health, said Karen McCraw, chief program officer for Family First. National infection rates have remained relatively flat at about 50,000 new infections each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but McCraw said there has been a resurgence among a younger demographic who "don't know how sick people can be."

The cleanup at the memorial was part of an effort spearheaded by Carrie Prowell, an intern at Family First, to draw public awareness back to the issue. On Dec. 2, McCraw, Prowell and others will re-open the memorial, which was originally dedicated in 1996, and launch a long-term effort to maintain it. Some of the bricks bear the names of York County AIDS victims, but the re-opening is "really kind of broadening the perspective of the garden" to reflect the toll HIV takes on the living, as well as the death it has caused, McCraw said.

Rivero hopes the memorial restoration will spark advocacy. Conversation is the only way to dispel the stigma still persists and keeps people from getting tested or seeking treatment, he said. Uncovering the ribbon, trimming overgrown bushes and renewing the forgotten site is a way to let people know "it's not about what I have -- it's about what I have," he said, pointing to his chest.

Photo 1: From left, Family First Health Caring Together Program case manager Catherine Bowen, manager Shannon McElroy and volunteer Marc Alvarado uproot a massive vine growth out of a bush Saturday at the AIDS memorial in Albemarle Park on Saturday. A crew of volunteers organized by Family First Health's Caring Together Program tidied up the AIDS memorial in anticipation of a re-opening set for Dec. 2. The memorial consists of a brick path shaped like a ribbon on the southwest side of Albemarle Park, and a plaque will be added soon.

Photo 2: Emerson Rankin, 2 of Glen Rock, deposits leaves in a trash bag Saturday as his older brother Tristan, 5, uses a kid-sized rake at a clean-up effort at the AIDS memorial in Albemarle Park.

Photo 3: Family First Health board member Clint Rivero and chief program officer Karen McCraw clean up the AIDS memorial at Albemarle Park on Saturday.

Photos (C) Chris Dunn York Daily Record

16 November 2013
Hannah Sawyer, York, PA