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AIDS Memorial Quilt coming to AIC

Amber Ollari, Staff Writer

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Starting on November 30, AIC will proudly showcase sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Griswold Theatre Lobby and West Wing in the Karen Sprague Cultural Arts Center.

The Quilt is a memorial to the more than 1.2 million people who died from AIDS-related causes in the United States since the disease became an epidemic in the early 1980s.

Acquired Immune Difficency Syndrome, commonly known as AIDS, is a disease where there is a loss of the body’s cellular immunity, attacking the immune system, lowering resistance to infection and malignancy. This disease was initially found mostly in gay and bisexual men and African American gay and bisexual men in particular, but has spread to a wider population.

AIDS is spread through bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or having unprotected sex, from an HIV positive host.

The Quilt came about in 1987, a colorful symbol to honor those lives lost. There was a lot of fear surrounding the epidemic that many cemeteries and funeral homes refused to handle the bodies of those affected by AIDS.

Since the dead weren’t given a funeral, the families weren’t allowed to grieve properly. The Quilt was the only chance for family, friends, and survivors had to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones.

The Quilt is made up of many different handmade sections and, in total, weighs 54 ½ tons. Each panel is three feet by six feet to resemble the size of a human grave. The quilt panels are very personal and customized to commemorate the soul who has passed.

The NAMES Project Foundation is responsible for maintaining and displaying The Quilt, grouping the panels with similar designs into 12’ by 12’ “blocks.” AIC will have 20 blocks on display for the community to see. There has been a very positive response to The Quilt coming to AIC and there have been requests from the Boston area, Cape Cod, and Connecticut for selected panels to be put on display.

The whole point of the AIDS Quilt is to raise awareness to the epidemic and to help comfort those affected by the disease. The Quilt can also raise funds for community-based AIDS organizations and increased funding for education and prevention of the disease.

When the epidemic first started, having HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. There was no way of working around the disease and people died a painful death. However, today there are plenty of drugs and ways to help manage HIV, allowing the patient to lead a fairly normal life.

Awareness of the disease is partially credited from celebrities who had AIDS.

Freddie Mercury, the lead singer for the band Queen, died of AIDS. There were questions surrounding his sexuality due to his flamboyant tendencies and tight stage outfits but it didn’t really faze anyone.

Mercury had contracted bronchial pneumonia brought on by AIDS and informed the world two days before he died. His statement was sent to the press and spread to the world.

Once the news broke, it started to bring back focus to AIDS and helped spark even more groups to start raising more awareness.

The AIC community seems to be excited for this opportunity to learn more.

Susan Petrucelli, a professor at AIC, feels that The Quilt will bring back the AIDS recognition.

“I think the AIDS epidemic seems to be brushed under the carpet, so I think it’s good that it’s coming here,” Petrucelli said.

The Quilt will be available for all to view November 30, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 1 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; December 2, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and December 3, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

This event is free and is great for educating those who aren’t familiar with the AIDS Quilt.

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AIDS Memorial Quilt coming to AIC