Across the Emory University Quadrangle names—solemnly recited one after the other—recalled those who have lost their lives to AIDS. On the ground, the 800-panel AIDS Memorial Quilt commemorated those lives.
Each panel is an individual memorial created by those who knew and loved an AIDS victim. There are poems, prayers, photos, letters, articles of clothing, logos, cartoon characters and drawings. There were messages, some in block lettering, some in fancy script. Beside an arrangement of musical notes was “thank you for the music you left in my life.” Beside a baby picture was, “I believe he wanted people to know that everyone with AIDS was once somebody’s baby.” Next to the photo of a young man was the notation “I judged; he loved.”
The display marked World AIDS Day Dec. 1. Presented by Emory Hillel, the fifth annual “Quilt on the Quad” ceremony opened with a keynote talk by Sandra Thurman, president and CEO of the International AIDS Trust based in Atlanta at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. She is one of the world’s leading experts on AIDS issues, and in 1997 President Bill Clinton appointed her as director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Thurman also is a former director of AID Atlanta. Following her talk, members of the Emory community read the names of each individual memorialized by a quilt panel on the quad.
“The AIDS Quilt helps bring more than statistics to the HIV/AIDS epidemic; the quilt brings a personal, emotional touch to the individuals whose lives were lost,” Emory College sophomore Alexey Abramov, co-organizer of Quilt on the Quad for Emory Hillel, states in a news release. “Until you really see the panels laid out on the campus quad with your own eyes, it’s hard to imagine how traumatic and devastating this illness truly is. The quilt best illustrates how HIV/AIDS does not just affect the victims of the illness, but the toll burdened by their families, friends and communities too.”
The Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) is an official National Institutes of Health CFAR site. More than 120 faculty throughout Emory are working on some aspect of HIV/AIDS prevention or treatment.
The NAMES Project Foundation Inc., is the international curator of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, now headquartered in Atlanta. The foundation was established in 1987 as a non-governmental organization with the mission of preserving, caring for and using The AIDS Memorial Quilt to inspire action, heighten awareness and foster healing in the age of AIDS.
The entire quilt weighs 54 tons and includes more than 47,000 panels dedicated to more than 91,000 individuals. In November 2005, the quilt was designated as one of “America’s Treasures” and was awarded a “Save America’s Treasures” federal grant that has established a conservation and preservation program for it.