By International HIV/AIDS Alliance Key Correspondent Thuletu Tikili Hanene from Zambia
Most of us in Africa remember the time when the AIDS Memorial Quilt was used as a tool to highlight the personal grief people who had lost loved ones to AIDS felt in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For me personally that’s when I believe the tide started turning as it marked the beginning of people in West taking note of the destruction that AIDS was leaving in affected populations not only in the USA but in Africa as well.
In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died due to AIDS related illnesses, and to help people understand the devastating impact of HIV. This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation for a project that came to be known as the Name’s Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt now forms part of World AIDS Day activities in most parts of the world, the day we celebrate the lives of the loved ones we have lost in the last 30 years to AIDS. In most parts of the globe, the emergence of an AIDS quilt also marks the beginning of fighting against HIV; it signifies the creation of activist networks and support groups formed by and for people living with HIV, which are still actively fighting HIV today.
Today the AIDS quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic. More than 48,000 individual, three-by six foot memorial panels — most commemorating the life of someone who has died due to HIV — have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display in more than 50 locations around Washington, D.C. this week including the AIDS 2012 Global Village and in Session Room 1. For those who want to add a panel in memory of a loved one you can do so by visiting the Positive Lounge.
The KC team is a global network of community-based writers from around 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. A large number of KCs are people living with or affected by HIV. All are volunteers and include those working in advocacy, media, health and development.