Pinch me.

This issue of SFGN, at 96 pages, is the second largest in our history. Sadly, one of the reasons we are so enhanced is because this week we are publishing The Spirit, our biannual HIV supplement. At 32 pages, it complements World AIDS Day.

This issue reminds us that we have to keep on fighting against AIDS. Still, we are in a better place. Once, we only fought against people with AIDS.

As the voice of the LGBT community, we have to be the voice for those living with HIV. Since the 1980's when GRID was the disease that dare not speak its name, it was our community who rose to the occasion, demanding to be heard not herded; asking to be counted not circumvented.

The years have been many and the virus still takes a toll. Advertisers who offer pharmaceuticals and protocols populate the pages of our newspaper. But they do more than just offer a pill that heals. Their energies and researchers, their doctors and scientists, in laboratories across this planet, are everyday still looking for a permanent cure.

In the meantime, we fight on quietly against apathy. South Florida, with its merging South, Central and North American cultures, is the national epicenter of this terrible virus. Be proud though that your community has stood tall, promoting education and awareness, outreach and concern. Don't thank our laws or legislators, the lobbyists or the mayors who issue empty proclamations. Thank yourself and your friends.

It's people like Michael Weinstein courageously pushing the envelope with the AIDS Healthcare foundation, making inroads from Uganda to the United States, on billboards and bus benches and bulletin boards throughout our community.

It's Glen Weinzimer organizing the 900 riders and countless volunteers doing the Smart Ride from Miami to Key West, raising a million dollars in the process. This year’s top fundraiser, Timothy Haymon, raised $23,000, but he could not have done it without you.

It's HIV agency voices like Rick Siclari at Care Resource hosting the White Party and Terry DeCarlo at Broward House launching annual nights of remembrance, so friends that are lost are never forgotten.

It's all of you who bowl for Poverello House in the summer, or gather cans of food or toys for families living with HIV in the winter. There are so many of you, too many to mention, from Jerry Schultz organizing another canned food drive at Mona’s to Will Spencer launching Camp for Health.

It is citizen activists forcing the issue in political forums and in the press, elevating awareness in congress and state legislatures. It is writers willing to share their pain and progress in dealing with illness and recovery.

It's you taking part in an AIDS walk, raising dollar after dollar, mile after mile. But it's also you taking precautions at night so you are not beating yourself up the following day.

It's groups like the Pride Center, conducting intervention and consciousness raising support groups; organizations like CAP in the Palm Beaches and AIDS Help in Key West – and so many more we have tried to illuminate on these pages each week.

It's nightclubs hosting yet another benefit to the drag queen hostess donating yet another performance. It’s a foundation promoting health and doctors who heal. No, I can’t mention every name, salute every donor, or recognize every hero. There have been too many. There are still.

You see, it has always fallen upon us. It always will. In the end, when you want a helping hand, you look at the end of your own arm. As we have in the past, the Spirit again sheds light on a worldwide pandemic that shadows our steps and trespasses upon our lives.

We publish a free paper. Online or in print, there are not many things you get for free anymore. Our paper is sustained by the faith of advertisers who believe in us. They stand with us because they know we deliver our product with credible content, and continued conscientiousness. They make SFGN and the Spirit possible. Please support them as they do us.

With your help, these days of darkness will soon end, and flowers will again blossom. One day soon, there will be no more speeches, no more words, no more memorials for friends lost. Here, on Thanksgiving, let us simply be grateful for not only what we have, but also those whose memories enriched our lives for so long.

And while we are here, for as long as we can, let's fight like hell for the living.

On this World AIDS Day, we thank you again for being there when it counted most.