The Significance of the AIDS Memorial Quilt

Many are unaware of the impact AIDS has had on the lives of ordinary people and celebrities alike. With the added stigmatism surrounding HIV/AIDS, it has become increasingly difficult to educate the general public on this health issue.

Unfortunately, the marginalization of individuals with HIV/AIDS, combined with the ignorance of the general populace on HIV/AIDS, has created an environment for this pandemic to grow.

The NAMES Project Foundation has sought out to halt this escalation in 1987 through the collection of quilts that family members personalized to their loved ones who died from AIDS.

Each quilt, measuring 3′ x 6′ to imitate the size of a coffin, was collected and collaged into a block of quilts. On October 11th of 1987, these blocks were laid on the Washington Mall during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Collectively, 1,920 quilts were displayed that day.

Today, that number has surpassed 48,000.

When attempting to describe my first impression of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, the word ‘unsettling’ appears in my thoughts. The quilts, intimately personal and beautiful, carry a revolutionary-like weight when displayed that immediately captivates any audience. Each quilt is so personal that it almost felt inappropriate of me to look at them– almost as if I were invading someones privacy.

But thats the whole point, to feel disturbed and uncomfortable, for only complacency results from feeling content. While admiring these quilts, I felt like I was being told to not forget the unsettling feeling I had and to act on it.

Furthermore, to naively leave the AIDS Memorial Quilt and not understand how much progress we have left is to completely miss its purpose. This mistake would not only be a disappointment to the families and friends of those who lost someone to AIDS, but the individual who’s quilt is being displayed too.

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