I remember being teased for being gay when I was only in the 3rd grade. The words thrown at me from other kids telling me that the only future I had in front of me was one in which I contracted HIV, died of AIDS, and burned in hell for all eternity. That was over 30 years ago, and even today with better science, education, treatment, and prevention methods — we are all still combating those ignorant messages.

Some of the early public health mistakes and delays in MPX communication, reporting, vaccine production, and distribution have felt all too reminiscent of early crimes against the LGBTQ community in the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This led to justified collective rage, confusion, frustration, and fear, as we were handed yet another virus to battle.

Combating the HIV/AIDS virus for so many decades has instilled in us important public health lessons and a sense of collective responsibility that helped our community fight COVID-19 and MPX. LGBTQ people took to COVID vaccine at higher rates than non-LGBTQ people. With remarkable speed and ahead of official public health information being distributed, our LGBTQ community’s global network of advocates, activists, and sex workers used online tools to educate themselves about MPX and used their social media presence to educate one another without stigma.

Our fight to stop the spread of the HIV virus and find a cure isn’t over, but decades of work and research have brought us better tools for testing, treatment, education, and prevention. You too can be a part of these efforts by participating in the largest fundraiser for HIV/AIDS-related work in the region: AIDS Walk San Diego produced by our partners at The Center. I hope to see you there! 

My heart and life are indebted to those brave enough to fight, to walk, and to share their personal stories in service of public education. Together we can unchain ourselves from fear and shame. HIV/AIDS impacts all of us whether we realize it or not, but we are not solely defined by it. We walk to remember those we lost. We walk to end AIDS and new HIV infections. We walk to end stigma so that together we can walk freely towards Justice with Joy.

With Pride,
Fernando Z. López
Pronouns: they/them/theirs
Executive Director
San Diego Pride

Vintage picture with a large group of people holding white crosses with pink flowers

About San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride raises funds primarily through festival ticket and beverage sales, and through sponsorships, and exhibitor fees. These funds support San Diego Pride’s community philanthropy which has distributed more than $2.5 million in advancement of its mission to foster pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.