“Back Online Again!” Those three words greeted visitors to the Instagram account @the_aids_memorial on Wednesday afternoon. The message arrived after much confusion, hurt and anger: During the past three weeks, hundreds of tributes on the beloved social media account had been mysteriously deleted.
Confounding the problem, the account’s founder, who goes by Stuart from Scotland, had told PinkNews earlier this week that he had been blocked from accessing it—and that Instagram was not helping to resolve the issue.
When POZ reached out to him for an update, Stuart confirmed that he was back online and able to post tributes on the photo-sharing platform. However, it’s unclear whether the underlying problem has been resolved because Instagram hasn’t provided Stuart with an explanation for why he was blocked from his own account or why hundreds of posts were deleted to begin with—only to be reinstated and deleted again.
Here’s a sample post from @the_aids_memorial:
. . “Jon Bales was my first boyfriend. He was a college diver with amazing talent. It was truly amazing when we saw each other the first time I knew he was the one. . I had just graduated college and was a confused fraternity boy. Jon had just moved from Athens, GA and was transferring to the University I had gone to as his family had moved here a couple of years earlier. . His major was ART with acrylic painting his focus. He was very into music as well and was close friends with B-52s and R.E.M. Something I had only dreamed of having. We were able to travel extensively to New York, Chicago, Atlanta, South Beach and many more. . Sometimes we were able to meet up with B-52s and R.E.M. When they were touring VIP guests backstage and hanging with band members. R.E.M. played at the Arena where we lived giving us 100 tickets. We had a party for the band at my condo after the concert. . Our time together was amazing. The tragedy was that in the last couple of years Jon had developed AIDS. As bad as it got at times we still never let it get to either of us. The final 10 months were in a hospice and we turned the dining room into a hospital room at home when he was not actually at the hospital. . Jon was taken from the world on November 9, 1991. We lost one of the funniest most beautiful person ever. My life was changed forever I suffered PTSS for a couple of years and struggle with depression and anxiety ever since”’- by Thurston Keith Thorpe @thurstonkeiththorpeuksae . #whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids #lgbthistory ???? ᴛʜᴇᴀɪᴅsᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴀʟ@ʏᴀʜᴏᴏ.ᴄᴏᴍ .
“These setbacks don’t help,” Stuart told POZ, “but I need to push forward. I feel there has been a total disregard by Instagram to address these issues,” he said, noting that the interruptions are “upsetting many followers of the page needlessly by wiping away their tributes to loved ones and the legacy of the AIDS epidemic. It also totally undermines the memorial mission as a place to find solace and comfort. I just want people to feel comfortable sending submissions.”
He initially discovered the problem when individuals who had submitted posts contacted him to inquire why he had deleted them. “They were so upset,” he recalled to PinkNews. “It’s like vandalism in a graveyard.”
Fans of the account—many of whom have contributed tributes to loved ones lost to the epidemic—took to social media on Stuart’s behalf. And to help rectify the problem, Stuart created a new account @stuart_the_aids_memorial.
“Wendy was the first person I’d ever know with #AIDS. When she visited, we would make ice cream soda floats, frozen pizza and all kinds of junk food, and that’s all she needed to do to win my 10 year old heart. . Wendy was like family and when I learned she had #AIDS, I was too young to feel anything about it, but because I wasn’t educated, I would tense up when she hugged me, and I stopped accepting her handmade soda floats. . I hurt her, and she knew why. She pulled me aside and just like a mother scolding her children, she gave me #HIVAIDS 101 and I would never again deny any hugs, kisses, or sips from her soda floats. . Wendy won a lawsuit against a Dental practice, who had covered their whole office with paper towels when they learned about her positive status. . Wendy was an activist, advocate and educator in her last days, and I’m proud of her accomplishments and proud to have known such a strong kindhearted resilient woman. RIP ???? #wendymodeste” - by @mellsworld . #whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids ???? ᴛʜᴇᴀɪᴅsᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴀʟ@ʏᴀʜᴏᴏ.ᴄᴏᴍ
“What these setbacks do show is how passionate people are about the site,” Stuart told POZ, “and that is just the most amazing thing to observe. So that’s the positive element I take from this debacle—this beautiful online community who want to keep following, supporting and sharing.”
Perhaps, as Stuart said, the project deserves its own website, independent of Instagram. But that, he noted, would be a more costly endeavor.
Stuart considers the memorial a collaborative process because of the all the people who submit tributes for him to post. To learn more about him and how he curates the account, read this interview in LoverBoyMagazine.com.
. . “Twenty-four years ago today, on August 22, 1993, George Herrera died from AIDS. He was my dad. . When he was first diagnosed, my mom, my brother and I were scared to say the word ”AIDS“ out loud. The stigma at the time was awful. . My brother and I were just kids. We did the best we could. We were afraid to let anyone know. We were afraid other family members would turn away from us. We were afraid our friends would turn away from us. We were afraid our church would turn away from us. . He didn’t die alone - the three of us were there for him throughout the illness. . For so many years, my memory bank was filled with how the victims of this disease were treated during the early years. It was awful. But now, I can finally look back and remember my dad before he got sick. . My wonderful memories of Dodger games sitting in the left-field pavilion watching Dusty Baker. Going to USC football games at the Coliseum. Getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the Rose Parade, and then attending the game after. I got my love of sports from him. . The thing I hate the most is that he didn’t live to meet my husband. You see, I married a sports journalist. . My dad would have loved talking to Joe about who the Rams would draft this year, who should win the Heisman, whether Dave Roberts should have pulled the pitcher so early last night. . Or maybe Joe was sent to me from my dad in Heaven.” - by Shannon Herrera-Kacik @sherrerakacik . #whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids ???? ᴛʜᴇᴀɪᴅsᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴀʟ@ʏᴀʜᴏᴏ.ᴄᴏᴍ .
. . #MichaelJeter (August 26, 1952 – March 30, 2003) , was a Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor. . His TV roles include #HermanStiles on #EveningShade from 1990 until 1994 and #MrNoodle’s brother, Mr. Noodle on #ElmosWorld (#SesameStreet) from 2000 until 2003. . Jeter’s film roles include #Zelig, #TheFisherKing, #Waterworld, #AirBud, #PatchAdams, #TheGreenMile, #JurassicParkIII, #SisterAct2, and #ThePolarExpress. . Jeter was openly gay and met his partner, #SeanBlue, in 1995; they were together from 1995 until 2003 when Jeter was found dead in his #Hollywood home at age 50. . Although he was #HIVpositive, he had been in good health for many years. His partner, #SeanBlue, stated publicly that Jeter died after suffering an epileptic seizure. . In 1996, Jeter learned that he was HIV positive and a year later he publicly revealed his condition. . “Every time an actor does a job, he has to have a physical to assure that he’s healthy enough to complete a film. The forms you fill out ask if you’re being treated for anything. It would be easy to say no. Well, I didn’t want to commit insurance fraud or a felony. I have HIV, but I’m perfectly healthy. Why not say that?” . #whatisrememberedlives #theaidsmemorial #aidsmemorial #neverforget #endaids #lgbthistory ???? ᴛʜᴇᴀɪᴅsᴍᴇᴍᴏʀɪᴀʟ@ʏᴀʜᴏᴏ.ᴄᴏᴍ . .