Patchwork for prevention

The AIDS Memorial Quilt, an international effort to commemorate victims of the disease, was displayed yesterday in the Newcomb Hall Commonwealth Room for the University community.

Members of the public can view the Quilt from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through tomorrow.

A student group, "Promoting-HIV- Negativity," sponsored the University's exhibit, established by the NAMES Project Foundation in 1987.

The NAMES Project, a nonprofit foundation comprised of 35 national chapters and 43 international affiliates, has raised over $3 million for AIDS service groups since instituting the Quilt.

P-NEG Vice-President Elizabeth Moore said the group has displayed quilts from NAMES the last five years.

According to third-year College student Mary Beth Robison, a member of P-NEG, panels can be contributed by anyone, from anywhere in the world.

A wide range of demographics is represented on the Quilt, including "men, women, gay, straight, young and old," Robison said.

Individual panel submissions then are combined and assembled as quilts, which NAMES distributes around the world, she added. Most panels depict quotes, pictures of AIDS victims or symbols representing their lives.

As of last year, the Quilt included over 44,000 individual panels.

In addition to reflecting the different backgrounds affected by AIDS, the exhibit generates a broad response, P-NEG President Alyssa Lederer said.

"The Quilt really pulls a diverse crowd from the University," Lederer said. "It's a very powerful and moving experience, so people spread the word."

The University's exhibit features eight quilts this year.

One of the quilts incorporates a panel submitted by the University's Queer Students Union, commemorating AIDS victim Doug Page, a 1985 College graduate, Robison said.

The Quilt was last displayed in its entirety in 1996 in Washington D.C., covering the entire National Mall. Previously, the Quilt had been exhibited during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987, in two national tours and in D.C. again in 1992.

The University's display of the Quilt usually arrives before World AIDS Day, which falls Dec. 1. However, because of the Thanksgiving holiday, this year's exhibit came later than usual, Robison said.

Lederer said the Quilt aims to spread understanding of the AIDS epidemic among students.

"We hope this can facilitate learning," she said. "It gives AIDS a face."

Moore agreed the Quilt serves an important educational purpose.

"A lot of members of the student body have become desensitized to the statistics," she said. But AIDS is "still such a huge problem."

Because of confidentiality policies, P-NEG does not have access to the number of University students currently affected by AIDS or the HIV virus, Robison said. With the assistance of Student Health, however, the group hopes to acquire stronger statistical data in the future.

related stories