Fourteen thousand people will die by the end of this year due to AIDS in the U.S. This staggering number induces a need to help decrease these deaths.
How? The first step is to educate yourself by learning the facts on the impacts of HIV/AIDS. If you know the facts, then you will be more likely to take better care of your health while having sex, which lowers your chance of contracting HIV/AIDS.
After all, more than one million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., while a fifth of those people do not know they are infected. If calculated, that means every nine and a half minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt has been on campus all week on Norlin Quad, thanks to the Queer Initiative. QI is a group on campus focused on advocating equal rights for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community on campus and across the country.
QI is bringing Cleve Jones, one of the few groundbreaking activists of our time, to campus. He will be speaking Thursday, Sept. 30, in Math 100 at 7:00 p.m. He will be talking about the history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, followed by a Q-and-A forum.
The largest community art project in the world, each section of the quilt is 12 feet by 12 feet. Each panel of the quilt, divided into eight sections, represents eight people who have died due to HIV/AIDS.
Spanning over 1,293,300 square feet, the quilt represents 91,000 lives lost due to HIV/AIDS. Many panels are added each and every day.
Jones was the founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. If you’ve seen the 2008 film, “Milk,” Jones was Harvey Milk’s right hand man (the kid in the glasses). Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be voted into a public office.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt was first created in 1987. The AIDS endemic wreaked havoc in the GLBT community during the 1970s-80s, specifically victimizing gay males.
Having friends and colleagues die left and right during this time, Jones and a few others said they felt that not enough was being done.
“I was just overwhelmed by the need to find a way to grieve together for our loved ones who had died so horribly,” Jones said in a 2006 interview with PBS. “And also to try to find the weapon that would break through the stupidity and the bigotry and all of the cruel indifference that even today hampers our response. I got to the edge of the crowd, and I looked back at that patchwork of names on the wall, and I thought, it looks like a quilt. And immediately I thought of my grandmother and my great-grandmother back in Bee Ridge.”
The AIDS Memorial Quilt unquestionably depicts the urgent need to put a stop to AIDS.
“I thought, what a perfect symbol,” Jones said. “What a warm, comforting, middle-class, middle-American, traditional-family-values symbol to attach to this disease that’s killing homosexuals and IV drug users and Haitian immigrants. And maybe, just maybe, we could apply those traditional family values to my family.”
Just passing through Norlin Quad, one can see the toll of AIDS on 280 people. Even seeing only a portion of the project is enough to touch your heart. The fact that each panel in each section is roughly the size of a grave is a little surreal. A brother, a mother, a child; everyone is represented in the project.
CU students need to see Jones speak to become more aware of this threatening disease. Once we know what the opposition is, we can put a stop to it, once and for all.
Jones has reached so many souls with the AIDS Memorial Quilt and will forever be remembered as a hero in the GLBT community.
By hearing the story and history of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, one can then fully understand why we must end HIV/AIDS forever. Everyone is affected by HIV/AIDS in one way or another.
“Poverty, homelessness, lack of access to health care, incarceration rates, drug use and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases can all increase rates of HIV,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
HIV/AIDS does not only affect the GLBT population. It affects us all.
Patrick Vargas is the Secretary for the CU Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center Student Advisory Board and the public relations/outreach coordinator for the Gay-Straight Alliance.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Patrick Vargas at Patrick.email@example.com.