BY ROBERT WILLIAMS | If you are reading this, you probably know someone affected by HIV and AIDS. If you don’t, then, “Hello, I am Rob and I have AIDS.”
Now that we are all on the same page, there is something truly special now on display in Los Angeles – an installation of a very small part of the acres big AIDS Memorial Quilt.
To commemorate World AIDS Day, The Advocate, with generous support from Beverly Hills real estate agent and philanthropist Michael J. Libow and in conjunction with The NAMES Project Foundation, has brought three installation panels of The Quilt for display at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Beverly Hills Public Library from November 28 to December 4.
It’s a historic must see that memorializes those who have died of AIDS.
Friends, lovers and family members quilted and continue to quilt panels to honor their loved ones, whom they fear history might forget. As someone living with AIDS, I think about whether my memory will be preserved as a panel on The Quilt or will I be one of the lucky ones who lives long enough to see a cure.
Although people like me with access to great healthcare are now living full lives, people are still being infected with HIV and people are still dying of AIDS.
“Now is yet another time we need to remember the resilience of our community, and the people who we lost before someone listened to our protests,” said Lucas Grindley, editorial director for Here Media, parent company of The Advocate. “Rates of HIV infection are still far too high. The CDC reports that half of all young, gay black men will be HIV-positive in their lifetime. There’s work to do.”
Libow said supporting The Quilt’s installation is important because he has always been a champion of those less fortunate than he is, and he wants people, especially those not in the gay community, to understand the disease is still devastating lives.
“As a gay man living in the very straight community of Beverly Hills, I think it is important to shine a light on a disease that has taken a back seat in the public conscious,” Libow said. “This is a devastating illness that is still affecting many in Third World countries who don’t have our access to medications.”
Legendary San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones conceived the idea of The Quilt in 1985 while planning the annual candlelight march honoring San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. Cleve asked those marching to write the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS on placards. At the end of the march, the placards were taped to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.
Inspired by this sight, Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial. A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman.
To date more than 48,000 panels have been made for The Quilt.
If you are interested in donating to preserve The Quilt and help boost The NAMES Project’s programming efforts, you may donate at www.aidsquilt.org.