Today we commemorate World AIDS Day: the 30th anniversary of the first diagnosis of an epidemic that changed our lives forever. And while we've made major medical advances over the past three decades, we are still battling the spread of the disease into our communities.
On Tuesday, the City Council displayed four panels of the NAMES Project Foundation's AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Emigrant Savings Bank during our Stated Meeting as a somber reminder that the epidemic continues to claim lives around the world. Started in 1987, the Quilt is comprised of more than 40,000 panels honoring loved ones that we have lost. As I looked closer at the memorial I realized I recognized a name: Bill Jacobson, the son of my accountant. Bill and his family represent everything that is good about NYC. Bill grew up on the Lower East Side to a family who ran an accounting business. When he was 15 years old, Bill went to work at H&R Block. The customers were initially wary of going to someone so young for financial advice, but pretty soon he became known for being the smartest person in the room. When the Jacobsons found themselves short-staffed before tax season one year, Bill jumped in and started working for the them. The Jacobsons are a hard-working family and they have built a successful enterprise over time. They are loving and giving, celebrating the holidays together, working together and caring for each other. The pain of losing Bill at such a young age is only too hard to imagine.
Bill also represents what we lost in a generation of people in NYC during the past 30 years. So many brilliant, vibrant people. So many families, friends and loved ones. They are irreplaceable.
On World AIDS Day -- and truly every day -- it's important to remember that our most powerful weapon in the fight against HIV/AIDS is -- and has always been -- our voice. So talk to someone you love or care for today about HIV. Tell them why it's important to get tested and to know their status. Let them know that AIDS epidemic is far from over and that we all have a role to play in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.
The more we speak out and take advantage of the programs and initiatives in place to prevent the spread of this virus, the closer we'll get to one day beating this disease.