AIDS Memorial Quilt Panels Return to San Francisco

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The AIDS Memorial Quilt was created over 35 years ago to give people a way to memorialize, grieve, and honor their loved ones who died from AIDS. Individual quilt panels are made 3-by-6 feet, which is approximately the size of a grave. Many families, friends, long-term survivors, and service providers never had the time in the early days of the pandemic to make a quilt that honored someone that they had lost — it was too overwhelming.

In 2020, the National AIDS Memorial became the permanent caretaker and steward of the Quilt, returning it to the Bay Area. The Quilt is a visual reminder of the AIDS epidemic and continues as the largest ongoing community art project in the world. More than 50,000 individual panels—commemorating and memorializing more than 105,000 individual lives of people who have died of AIDS—have been sewn together by friends, lovers, and family members and have transformed into a national treasure.

Shanti’s HIV Health Counselor Gregg Cassin organized groups of people to visit the Quilt at its new home in San Leandro. Gregg and volunteers from Shanti’s HIV Programs group Honoring Our Experience set up a series of community workshops for anyone to view the Quilt, search the database of people memorialized on the Quilt, and participate in constructing new panels. “I learned from Honoring Our Experience retreats and workshops that many long-term survivors lost their entire circle of friends. So, it was powerful be to among others who have lost loved ones to the AIDS crisis. It’s a space where you can talk and know people understand,’” said Gregg. “It was amazing how folks’ creativity blossomed when they saw what others made. Inspiration is everywhere.”

In honor of the 40th anniversary of World AIDS Day, December 1, 2021, brightly-colored quilt panels decorated with rainbows, flowers, and sequins; featuring names, dates, and messages of love, were unveiled at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Francisco. Volunteers, Shanti clients and staff, community partners, and members gathered to celebrate people who lost their lives to AIDS in the unveiling of panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt. “It was amazing and life-changing for people to see the Quilt. “To see all those names means each individual had at least one person who loved them and thought of them,” said Gregg. In true San Francisco fashion, the event concluded with a dance party called REVIVAL.

For more information on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, please visit https://www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt

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