THE FOLLOWING APPEARS IN 1ST QTR 2019 METRO GUYS MAGAZINE
WORLD AIDS DAY and THE QUILT
I often come to the Beach early on World AIDS Day. It is my place of solitude and Remembrance of the literally hundreds of people, friends and partners I have known and lost to Aids. I am so grateful I survived my generation, unscathed by HIV but always haunted by the tragic deaths I and many others have personally witnessed and wonder how is it some of us remain behind. I have met some pretty courageous people, warriors and caregivers along the way.
World AIDS Day, designated as December 1st, 1988 by the World Health Organization, is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the Global Aids Pandemic and to remember those whom have died from the disease. The Day is usually marked with Prevention and Funding speeches and Testing culminating in Candlelight Vigils.
As of 2016, AIDS has killed an estimated between 28.9 million and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV, making it the most important global public health issue in recorded history. Thanks to advances in medicine, HIV testing, access and services the death rate from AIDS has decreased since its peak in 2005 (from 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million reported deaths in 2016). Despite this downward trend, we must not be complacent.
THE AIDS QUILT:
We remember those lives lost in the early days of AIDS. Many not only from the disease but also from early treatments of DCI, AZT and DDI and Government neglect of the enormity of what was to unfold Worldwide.
As we approach another World Aids Day, it is important to look back at our LGBT History. Since the 1978 assassinations of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone, Gay Rights Activist Cleve Jones had helped organize an annual candlelight march honoring these men. In November 1985 the Aids Quilt had its humble beginnings as a memorial for those who had died in San Francisco. As the Aids epidemic unfolded, Cleve Jones asked the marchers to put the names of lost ones on placards and at the end of the march, taped those placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building.
In 1987, Cleve Jones created a Foundation called the Names Project and the Aids Memorial Quilt was born. Those placards were converted to Panels that is made up of individual fabric panels designed to honor a specific person. Each contain a memento and/or picture of that persons life. Public response to the Quilt was immediate. People in U.S. cities most affected first by AIDS (Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) sent panels; generous donors rapidly supplied sewing machines, equipment and other materials, and many volunteered to hand make the individual panels.
During the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in October 1987, the Quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and covered a space larger than a football field and included 1,920 panels. Half a million people visited the Quilt that weekend and paid their respects. The overwhelming response to the Quilt’s inaugural display led to a four-month, 20-city tour the following Spring and it raised nearly $500,000 for hundreds of AIDS service organizations.
After the Panels return to Washington, D.C. in October 1988, it grew to 8,288 panels and was displayed in front of the White House. Celebrities, politicians, families, lovers and friends read aloud the names of the people represented by the Quilt panels. In October 1992, the entire Quilt display again returned to Washington, D.C. and The Names Project was invited to march in President Clinton’s inaugural parade in January 1993.
The last display of the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt was in October of 1996 and covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C. Since inception, The Names Project Foundation has raised over $3 million for AIDS service organizations throughout North America and remains the largest community art project in the world.
THE QUILT TODAY:
The Quilt continues to be a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic and has grown to more than 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels commemorating the life of those whom died of AIDS.
All the panels have been professionally photographed, creating a permanent visual record of the most compelling symbol of the U.S. AIDS pandemic. Additionally, these images have been digitized and made available on their website, enhancing display activity and for use in HIV prevention education programs.
From Cleve Jones’ simple idea, HIV Testing and Prevention Education has taken foothold across our Country. All those individual lives lost would have been lost among the staggering death toll of well over 55,000 in the U.S.. It also serves as a reminder that people (such as demonstrated by protest groups like Larry Kramer’s ActUp) CAN affect Government action for funding of Testing, Treatments and Prevention programs.
Today, HIV is still being transmitted and people are still struggling to get Treatment. In the U.S., PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylactic) has begun to show a dramatic decrease of the HIV Virus to Undetectable Viral Load to those sexually active when used with a condom. Once it is maintained at Undetectable levels, HIV Transmission is negligible.
Long Term Survivors face problems of aging with HIV and long term side effects of the medicines and the disease itself. The struggles against HIV remains real, especially in our interconnected World. As funding in the U.S. is stagnant or received cuts, it is important that we collectively support Local HIV/AIDS Organizations.
In Florida, 114,772 individuals were living with HIV and 2,119 individuals were diagnosed with AIDS in 2016.
Get tested for HIV and Remember those we lost. This Epidemic is NOT over.
AIDS QUILT INFORMATION:
By visiting http://www.aidsquilt.org/ you can view the Quilt and if you know the panel’s Block number, you can go to that specific panel. You can also host local Chapter Panels, learn how to make a panel, where to send it for inclusion and where to Donate to keep the maintenance of the 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels that make up the Aids Quilt.
To view short video: http://thelastonefilm.com/
WRITTEN BY: Jim Perigny (aka DJ JimmyP) is the CEO of Red Hispana Florida, an HIV and LGBT Issues Agency and radio station Founder/Manager of EAGLEradio.PRO