Quilt blocks memorializing AIDS victims to be on display

Nov. 26, 2012

April Wefler
[email protected]

The NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt remembers those who have died from AIDS, representing all 50 states and 28 additional countries.

At 1.3 million square feet, it is too large to be displayed anywhere in its entirety. The last time it was fully assembled was on the Washington Mall in 1996.

“It is so large that if you spent one minute with each panel, it would take you 33 days to see it all,” said Vanessa Delgado, the LGBT program director on campus.

The university will be displaying four blocks of the quilt (one block is 12 feet by 12 feet) from Nov. 29 to Dec.1. One block will be in the main entrance, one in front of the ROAR Office and two in the lounge area by The Scribe’s office in University Center.

Two of the blocks were requested because they are specific to Colorado Springs and UCCS. Delgado mentioned that a man named Cleve Jones in San Francisco started the memorial quilt in 1987. Jones created the quilt panels to honor his friend Marvin Feldman, who died of AIDS.

“In 1987, no one really knew about the disease – organizations would not take the bodies of people they thought died of AIDS because no one really knew how it was spread,” said Delgado.

People started making 6-by-3-feet quilt panels that were the size of a standard American grave to add to the quilt. The quilt panels were their way of memorializing their loved ones because they often would just be handed their loved ones’ ashes in a box.

“There’s something like 48,000 panels representing 96,000 names, and that’s not even a quarter of the people who’ve died of AIDS,” Delgado said. “If it were, it’d be three quarters bigger; it’d be exponentially large.”

Delgado encourages those who have not seen the quilt to view it at least once in their life. “It’s moving, it’s powerful; it’s unlike anything else,” she said. “This is a living memorial.”

She noted that one of the stereotypes about AIDS that she tries to dispel is that it affects disenfranchised or minority groups.

“AIDS is not an African-American, gay, Latino disease. It is one of the few things in life that does not discriminate against anyone,” she said. “AIDS doesn’t care how old you are or what you look like or who you love.”

Delgado explained that HIV is the pre-disposition to AIDS, so people are tested for the HIV virus. She recommended people get HIV tested every six months because it can take up to that time for the virus to show.

HIV can be contracted through the exchange of any bodily fluids, specifically the exchange of blood. According to livestrong.com, the three main ways to contract HIV are by sexual contact, injection drug use and vertical transmission (HIV passed from mother to child).

On Nov. 29, a panel of three to four local women who created a panel on the quilt will share their experiences of caring for children with AIDS. They will also talk about what it’s like to lose a son or daughter to the disease.

“It’s that kind of idea of who would make your panel and how would it effect others – hearing from a different perspective,” Delgado said, adding that it will be a “reverent, moving event.”

“We need to continue to spread awareness about this pandemic,” she said. Delgado added that people are still diagnosed with HIV every single day and that it is important to know your status, get tested and be aware of how it’s spread.

“The numbers between 16 and 24 are on the rise again, the population at any university,” said Delgado. “It’s not out in the world; it’s happening here at home.”