This summer, for the first time since 1996, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in its entirety in Washington, DC. The Quilt was created 25 years ago in a small storefront in San Francisco’s Castro district by a group of strangers that had one thing in common: the loss of loved ones to AIDS. The Quilt has served not only as a memorial for those that lost the fight against AIDS, but also to raise awareness and promote action. Today, the Quilt stands as a reminder of the pandemic as it has now reached the size of more 47,000 individual 3-by-6 foot panels.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed on the National Mall from June 27th to July 1st and from July 4th to July 8th as part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Additionally, the Quilt will also be available for viewing from July 21st to July 24th during the International AIDS 2012 Conference, which is also being held in Washington, DC. After lifting the 22–year ban which prohibited foreign individuals with HIV from entering the U.S., our nation’s capital is preparing to host the International AIDS 2012 Conference for the very first time.
Since lifting of the HIV travel ban, the current Administration has advanced several initiatives to promote the prevention and treatment of HIV. 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, but approximately 20% of people with HIV do not even know that they carry the virus, so testing has become a priority for the Administration. And because early detection and treatment both significantly reduce the risk of spreading the virus and increase life expectancy, accessible and affordable treatment options are also a priority for the Obama Administration.
Additionally, the Administration has earmarked funding to reach communities with the greatest numbers of new infections – such as African American women, transgender individuals, and gay men. Other Administration initiatives include a review of the current ban on organ donation by individuals with HIV/AIDS.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in 2012 is very different from 25 years ago when the AIDS Memorial Quilt made its debut. We must remember those who lost their fight and raise awareness for future generations. Take some time to visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt when it returns to Washington, DC this summer.