Tim Ward of York finished reading the poem he'd composed for Michael Wilson. Then, in front of about 50 people in York's Albemarle Park, he went to the space in the park's walkway where he placed a memorial brick for Wilson -- his good friend and one-time romantic partner who died of AIDS a little less than two years ago.
Ward, who was one of the speakers at the annual Remembering With Red Ribbon Program on Sunday afternoon, said he wanted to do his part to make others aware of the HIV virus. Because it took a lot away from Wilson and from Ward.
It proved too resilient for the drugs that kept Wilson alive from the time he contracted the virus decades ago.
It proved too overwhelming for their relationship, which ended after a year because it couldn't withstand the strain of constant illness.
And ultimately it proved too much for Wilson's lungs after it developed into AIDS and left him gasping through his last days with a devastating case of pneumonia.
But for all that, the virus never defeated Wilson's spirit, Ward said.
"He used to always say, 'You could be living with it or dying with it,'" Ward said. "And he was always living with it."
About 150 people attended the event, according to Leddy Jackson, administrative assistant for OPEN. Her organization is an HIV/AIDS ministry under the umbrella of the York County Council of Churches, which co-sponsored the event with Planned Parenthood.
The early part of the event was more about recreation and games, with sack races, basketball, volleyball and refreshments.
Then the proceedings closed on a more somber note, with a ceremony recognizing those whose lives have been affected by HIV and AIDS. Speakers discussed the continuing public health threat the virus represents and urged those present to do what they can about it, whether that action takes the form of campaigning for more treatment options, or simply helping educate others in the community.
"Even though we've come so far, we still have a long, long way to go," said guest speaker Patricia Fonzi, director of development for the Family Health Council of Central Pa.
Ward said that Wilson's death inspired him to become an activist. He wants to get out the message that the virus affects more than just the person who has it.
"It's a killer," he said. "It destroys lives. It destroys relationships."
The cumulative estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2007 in the United States and dependent areas was more than 1 million.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
OPEN, an HIV/AIDS ministry under the umbrella of the York County Council of Churches: 854-9504
Planned Parenthood of Central Pa.: 845-9683, ext. 205