People are gathering around the Bay Area today to mark World AIDS Day, an international day dedicated to raising awareness about the disease and honoring those who have died from it.

Events are planned in San Francisco, Oakland, and elsewhere in the Bay Area and across the country to mark the 22nd annual World AIDS Day.

One of the largest Bay Area events is taking place at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.

That event will mark the 20th anniversary of the Ryan White Care Act, a bill passed by Congress in 1990 to increase the availability of treatment for low-income victims of AIDS, event organizer Chris Christensen said.

White, a teenager from Indiana, was one of the first people with hemophilia to be diagnosed with AIDS and became an advocate for the rights of AIDS victims. He died just months before Congress passed the bill that bears his name.

White’s mother, Jeanne White Ginder, will be honored at today’s event, as will the late Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, a lead sponsor of the bill. A recorded speech by Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, will be played during the event, Christensen said.

The event “is not only to observe and keep those in our memory who we’ve lost, but also to look to the future, mark where we are with each year,” Christensen said.

The National AIDS Memorial Grove is giving out three $1,000 scholarships to local high school students who wrote essays about the significance of the grove and the fight against AIDS.

“We make a point of reaching out to high school students to get them thinking about this situation,” he said.

The event is scheduled to start at noon in the grove, located at the intersection of Bowling Green Drive and Middle Drive East in Golden Gate Park.

An event in Oakland today also aims to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic, and is offering free rapid HIV testing.

That gathering, organized by various community groups, features live entertainment, a BBQ, and information on HIV and AIDS and other health issues.

Along with raising awareness, organizers hope to chip away at the stigma associated with the disease and the fear of being tested.

The event, held at the Allen Temple Baptist Church Family Life Center at 8501 International Blvd., will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The live entertainment and BBQ will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and HIV testing begins at 5 p.m.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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