HAWTHORNE, NJ - On Tuesday evening, the Borough and Council of Hawthorne, in conjunction with the Hawthorne Pride Alliance, officially recognized World AIDS Day for the first time.  A small ceremony was held on the steps of the Municipal Building where red ribbons were displayed and a candle was lit by Mayor Goldberg and Chairman Mike Stracco. The candle was lit in remembrance of those living with and those who have died from AIDS-related illness. The ribbons were installed at sunrise and remained for the rest of the day.

“Due to the ongoing pandemic and its restrictions, we couldn’t do what we wanted to do to recognize World AIDS Day," Stracco said.  "We will put those plans on hold until next December 1.  However, we needed to recognize this day and its effects on our community.” 

"I think we're joining the world as a whole in recognizing AIDS awareness," Mayor Richard Goldberg told TAPinto Hawthorne.  "I think it's important that everyone be aware of the progress made in treatment but until there is a readily available cure, we are going to have to keep doing this to keep awareness up."

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The Pride Alliance said that World AIDS Day, December 1, "is dedicated to remembering those who have died" from AIDS and "celebrates the progress being made treating and preventing HIV."  Today, the World Health Organization has defined AIDS as a "global epidemic" and, according to the Alliance, in the last 32 years 32.7 million lives have been lost to AIDS. There are 38 million people living with HIV today.

AIDS is "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome" in turn caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or "HIV".  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) first recognized AIDS in 1981.  There is no cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but drugs and treatments have made significant progress over the years in giving patients a chance to live and function whereas in decades past infection was a near-certain death sentence.  The virus itself does not discriminate and can be passed among humans regardless of sexual orientation, but it has long been associated with the gay community and became a powerful stigma.

"Once again, the Hawthorne community is recognizing the LBGT community," Stracco said.  "We have to realize people are still living with HIV, have died because of AIDS, and we commemorate them, as a community, as one spirit."

"I hope we find a cure," Council President Matthews said.  "I know some of the medicines are working very well now, but I hope this is something we can eliminate and eradicate."

"It means a lot because it is coming out of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance, we're very proud of it," Councilwoman Rayna Laiosa said.  "It's about educating and getting the awareness out there.  This is another highlight for this month, recognizing World AIDS Day.  I'm very proud to be a part of this and the Alliance is doing a fabulous job.  We need to have this dialogue."

“This candle symbolizes the light in darkness, not just for World AIDS Day, but every day," Stracco said.  "We live in a world that can be dark.  We need, as a community, to be a light for others, particularly those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. I am honored that the HPA, Mayor Goldberg, and the Borough Council, in this small outward gesture, as well as the work we have been doing, can be a light for others."

Those in attendance were Mayor Goldberg, Council President Frank Matthews, Councilwoman Rayna Laoisa, Administrative Assistant Ellen Brogno, Pride Alliance Chairman Mike Stracco, Vice Chairman Lyle Hatch, Erica Prinzo, Tara Temprano, Lauren Kahn, Pete Oneglia, and Frank Ducoat.

Editor's Note: Pete Oneglia is a co-owner of TAPinto Hawthorne.