June 23rd, 2012
06:00 AM ET

On 25th anniversary, a quilt displays an American tragedy

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Gert McMullin scurries about a cluttered storage space, keeping track of the thousands of pieces of folded fabric plucked off metal shelves and packed into blue cardboard containers for their journey to the nation's capital.

The cloth panels are part of a quilt that has been her life these 25 years, since she began piecing together an American tragedy.

In the early days, McMullin, 57, sewed her mailing address into the panels she made in memory of friends who died. She thought they would be returned to her once America defeated AIDS.

She did not anticipate that a quarter century later, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, now 48,000 panels-strong, would still be growing.

The AIDS Quilt, and hoping for 'The Last One'

A new panel comes in almost every day to The Names Project Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that serves as the quilt's custodian.

On this bittersweet anniversary, the quilt will again be displayed in Washington, as it first was in 1987.

It's now believed to be the largest piece of folk art in the world. At a one-minute glance per panel, it would take a full 33 days to view the quilt in its entirety.

McMullin sees it as testimony to a generation lost and an epidemic that continues to infect and kill.

With every one of the 130 panels she sewed, a part of her was forever torn.

She fears that no one knows Gert McMullin anymore, the woman she was before she became an activist. There is no one left to tell that part of her story.

"All my friends are gone," she says.

Some now live in the quilt that weighs 54 tons and is made with panels adorned with the personal. Wedding rings and ashes, even a bowling ball and an air-conditioning grate, make up the ephemera.

Listen to McMullin describe how the quilt "saved" her life McMullin and the rest of The Names Project staff are used to packing and unpacking sections of the quilt that travel across the world for display. But this is the first time since 1996 that the entire quilt is going to Washington.

It's a massive undertaking.

Each of the quilt's panels has a file bearing letters, photographs, report cards, poems and other mementos quiltmakers send. Entire lives stored in a cabinet.

Many died alone, shunned even by their own mothers, who discovered their sons were gay.

Others died without an obituary, without a funeral, without even a marker on their grave. Such was the stigma of AIDS.

"Here is this quilt that makes this very difficult subject accessible and soft," says Julie Rhoad, executive director of The Names Project.

"It did what all great art does. It made us see people as souls, as human beings, as people who had productive lives."

Listen to why Rhoad got involved "This quilt is the conscience of the epidemic” Crafted in one of America's oldest traditions, the AIDS Quilt is like handmade social media, Rhoad says. Before email, Facebook or Twitter, people connected in this massive patchwork of fabric.

Today, the quilt is searchable online and soon will have its very own iPhone app to find lost lives.

More than 600,000 Americans have died from AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The quilt represents a fraction of those lives, and is a visual reminder of a disease that ravaged the nation.

"It is the central repository," Rhoad says.

Mothers made panels for their sons. Husbands, for their wives. Doris Day made one for Rock Hudson. And Cleve Jones made the very first one, for his best friend Marvin Feldman.

The size of a grave

Jones, a gay rights activist, first saw a report about gay men coming down with pneumocystis pneumonia in 1981. The United Press International story disturbed Jones so much that he clipped it and tacked it onto his bulletin board.

Four years later, the Castro, San Francisco's largest gay neighborhood, was decimated by the disease.

Jones, 57, recalls the fear being palpable. He saw someone one day and two weeks later, they were dead.

People didn't understand HIV then - whether it was spread through the air, through touch or bodily fluids.

And without treatment, people died very quickly.

When the first cases were detected in the early 1980s, it was called gay-related immune deficiency. Some called it the gay plague and wanted HIV-infected people placed under quarantine, their scarred bodies hidden away from society.

By fall 1985, Jones was marking a grim milestone: 1,000 San Franciscans dead from the new disease.

Most of them lived in the Castro. Jones realized then that he was at ground zero.

That same year, he joined an annual candlelight march on the anniversary of the assassination of openly gay politician Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. He asked his friends to bring placards remembering someone who had died of AIDS. They taped them on the side of the old federal building.

Jones looked up to see a patchwork of names covering the gray stone facade.

"It looks like a strange quilt," he thought to himself, his mind conjuring up the fabrics of his childhood in Bee Ridge, Indiana.

Jones could not forget that image during the next few months as he tested positive for HIV and lost his best friend, Marvin Feldman, to AIDS.

Soon after, Jones picked up a piece of white fabric and spray painted it red and blue. He stenciled Feldman's name in bold black letters.

"It was so not up to Marvin's standards," Jones recalls. He would have wanted it to be worthy of the Museum of Modern Art. Or at least the front display window of Bloomingdale's.

Soon, others volunteered to stitch panels to add to the one Jones made for Feldman. Gert McMullin was one.

She'd been a party girl who worked in the theater and behind the cosmetics counter at Macy's. She was ripped apart when all the gay men in her life began dying.

It was healing, she says, to work with her hands. To touch. To feel.

Jones wanted it that way. He also wanted to throw down the quilt out in front of the White House in Washington, to lay out the dead and demand attention for a disease that was killing his friends.

Each panel was 3 feet by 6 feet, the size of an average grave.

"It was always intended to be a weapon," he says.

The quilt grew to 1,960 panels. And on October 11, 1987, America first saw the AIDS quilt.

No memorials of marble

Chris Bartlett was a 21-year-old junior at Brown University when he arrived in Washington for the 1987 march.

"I was awestruck by the quilt," he says.

It was then that he began to fathom the impact of AIDS in America.

As the years passed, Bartlett, 46, now the executive director of The William Way Community Center in Philadelphia, realized that before anti-retroviral drugs came along in the mid-1990s, a whole generation of gay men had been wiped out by AIDS. Other communities were also left reeling.

Today, 1.2 million people are living with HIV infection and one in five of them are unaware of it, the CDC says.

Gay men still are at most risk of infection. As a race, African-Americans face the most severe burden in the United States.

Since the epidemic began, 1.1 million people have been diagnosed with AIDS in this country - 619,400 did not survive.

AIDS activists question why there are no permanent memorials. What is there beyond the quilt?

"Many of them had no obituaries," Bartlett says. "Even if they did, there was no effort to collect that centrally."

Five years ago, Bartlett began The Gay History Wiki, an online database of the then-4,600 men who died in Philadelphia. Inspired by Steven Spielberg's Shoah project, a memorial to the Holocaust, Bartlett wanted to recognize the dead.

"The quilt is literally two-dimensional," Bartlett says. "And when a panel is done, it's done. There's no more opportunity for people to add to it. The online wiki allows everyone to add - even things I don't necessarily like."

He is grateful for the AIDS quilt but he hopes his website will continue to grow because everyone can access it.

There is also an attempt to restore people on Facebook.

Philadelphia hairdresser Dominic Bash's page lists basic information like his birthday, August 14, 1946. Bash posts on his wall and makes new friends even though he died in 1993.

Bartlett was with Bash the day he died. He made a panel for him in the AIDS quilt. But Bartlett says Bash is alive today because of his Facebook page, though it is limited in scope.

"To the extent that the quilt continues to engage people in conversation, it's definitely living," he says. "But the challenge is to keep communities engaging with the trauma and grief we went through in the 1980s and 1990s. I wanted my project to tell the story of a young black man who died with no one by his bed and had no one to make him a panel."

Bartlett wants younger eyes to see the wiki and get inspired.

The girl who changed Magic Johnson

"My dream was for something greater than has happened yet," he says of his project, which he acknowledges would not have happened had it not been for the quilt.

The quilt began the tradition of honoring people who died. And part of healing, Bartlett says, is to take inventory of the loss.

'We were going to save the world'

Ricardo Ilias was born in 1987, a few months before the AIDS quilt was first displayed in Washington.

This year, his panel will also be featured.

Ilias, diagnosed with HIV at age 5, died at 23.

His cousin, Stephanie Laster, 50, raised Ilias as her own. Her uncle and aunt, and her own mother, died. The family listed diabetes and cancer for their deaths.

No one wanted the truth to get out.

"At the time, it was a white gay man thing," Laster says.

Then, people thought you were a prostitute if you died of AIDS. Or a junkie.

But now Laster knows that anyone can get HIV or AIDS, even women like her.

In 2009, 5,400 African-American heterosexual women were newly infected, the CDC says. Laster learned she was HIV-positive 15 years ago after she divorced and began dating.

She clearly remembers moving to Atlanta on a Wednesday, going to the hospital on Friday and learning her status on Monday.

She didn't cry. She didn't scream. She just absorbed the shock and kept raising Ilias, through graduation from Westlake High School and Morehouse College.

And then, he was gone, too.

He died of cranial bleeding. Laster says HIV may have contributed to his death but she doesn't know for sure.

Listen here to hear Laster's story in her own words 

She grieved by making panels for Ilias and all her loved ones. Then she sewed one that tells her family's story, of how HIV destroyed them.

"I have to let people know that HIV is not a one-person thing," she says. "If you have that information and no one knows, everyone can be affected."

Now, Laster helps others make panels for loved ones and friends.

Just like Gert McMullin.

On this summer day, Laster and McMullin are busy packing quilt panels in a nondescript building tucked behind the Silver Skillet restaurant in Midtown Atlanta.

It's the third home for the AIDS quilt in this city after it moved here from San Francisco in 2001.

"I hate Atlanta," McMullin says, never one to mince words. She is a San Francisco girl. Born there. Raised there. Formed there.

But when The Names Project moved here, so did she. She's officially the quilt production manager.

"It saved my life and it still does. I don't think I'd be here without it," she says, remembering how difficult it had been for her to cope with the deaths of 300 friends.

She came to be known as the handmaiden of the quilt. Some even call her the quilt's mother.

The trucks are here to take the quilt to Washington. McMullin furiously takes stock of all the panels and keeps track of each by number on computerized lists.

The quilt was part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival from June 27 to July 4 and now blankets the National Mall as Washington hosts this year's International AIDS Conference.

Talk of 'cure' at historic AIDS conference

The quilt, McMullin says, makes her happy - as happy as one can be in dealing with AIDS.

Except that she, like Cleve Jones, still seethes with anger that so many people died.

She is glad to see the quilt laid out again in Washington.

She wants younger Americans to touch the panels, to understand the depth of a disease that rarely makes headlines anymore after death rates plunged and HIV and AIDS became common terms.

"It's not as visual as it used to be," she says of AIDS. "It's still a death sentence. They still haven't found a cure."

She thinks about how she put her address on the first panels she made, so they could be sent back to her after AIDS was gone and the quilt was dismantled.

"We were going to save the world and then stop," she says.

Over the years, she realized the panels were not coming back, and that she could never stop. That the AIDS quilt would go on.

It was uplifting and sorrowful all at once.

CNN’s Emma Lacey-Bordeaux and Jonathan Binder contributed audio for this story. You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

Posted by
Filed under: Audio • Community • Health • How we live • Sexual orientation
soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Ulli

    Theoretically, yes. However, the risk of HIV transmission is acatully very low for most methods of transmission. The data shows that the highest risk for getting HIV from a single exposure to a person with a known, untreated case of HIV is to be on the receiving end of anal intercourse and that risk is only 2%. Sounds pretty low but considering the consequences of HIV infection it's still a considerable risk.The risk of getting HIV after getting stuck once with a needle used on an HIV positive person is 0.3%. I couldn't find specific data on drinking blood, but the closest thing I could find is that the risk of getting HIV from receptive oral intercourse with a male is 0.04%. Seeing as sperm has the highest concentration of HIV virus of all body fluids, followed by blood, I think the risk from drinking an HIV infected person's blood is somewhere in the neighborhood of a little less than 0.04%. It would also depend on how much they drank the more they drank, the higher the risk.Hopefully this has satisfied your curiosity.

    September 14, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jamie

    Carrying on the memory of those human beings who died from this terrible disease AIDS

    August 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DaveC

    There will never be a permanent memorial in Washington because it will be a permanent reminder of the apathy, lack of leadership, and possibly negligence by the Reagan administration.

    July 19, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. dakotastrange1

    So many dear friends rest somewhere in this incredible monument; far too many for me to remember. Only those of us who are older remember the horror of AIDS, no cure, discriminated against in housing, jobs, shunned by "friends". I can still see the faces of the walking dead in my memory. We ALL lost so much, so much talent, music, art, literature, dance, so much was NOT created due to this terrible disease.

    July 2, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ayala

      protection and lifestyle choice are a matter of choice. I do not weep!

      July 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • kate

      I hope you feel so stirring about our soldiers who lost their lives in our wars?

      July 4, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • David

        There is a astronomically HUGE difference between dying for your country and dying because you either can't keep it wrapped up or shared needles. Which the last time I checked are the only real ways of catching the virus. I am sorry but I can't feel bad for someone who gave themselves something they could have avoided. The only time, the only time I feel bad is either babies who got it from their moms or if a spouse or bf/gf cheated on their partner and thats how they got it. Outside of that no sympathy.

        August 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rudy

    My mother and I made a panel for my beloved brother, who passed away from AIDS in 1991. We saw a portion of the quilt in Atlanta many years ago. The small portion that we saw was overwhelming, I can only imagine how it would be to see the whole thing. It is truly a work of art with so many stories being told. God bless all who died from this horrible disease.

    July 2, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Ahmed

      You amaze me. You have a new project aomlst every single day. I don't know how you do it all. And they are all stunning. You have a real sense of color and pattern. This is no exception. I love the small white grid. With all the fun colors, it just keeps it all together.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Debra

    i was told that my aunt's first husband was the first reported death attributed to AIDS. I don't know if this is true or not, but I do know that it has affected my outlook on life and those with the disease.

    June 26, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. charlotte gedney

    So many of these comments are appalling...AIDS is a disease that has effected men, women, children worldwide and prevention and cures must be a priority not discrimination and bigotry. Visit Washington, Dc and the quilt and open your hearts to ending the Aids epidemic, the stigma, worldwide with prevention, health care, education, and a CURE.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Izzy

    My great-uncle died of AIDS in 1998. To this day, my family refuses to speak his name or acknowledge he ever existed. I only learned this year that he died of AIDS because of something my mother said one day–I was never allowed to meet him as a child nor was I allowed to attend his funeral (and no obituary was written for him that I can find).

    I think it's time I sewed a quilt panel in his honor. Wish I could get to DC to see the quilt in person.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • charlotte gedney

      I would be glad to host you if you make the trek to

      June 25, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zebula

      The Quilt is very moving and well worth whatever it takes to go see it.

      June 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Todd Jensen

    I really wish journalists would learn what the word Tragedy actually means. This folks did not die because of a character flaw (at least in my opinion). Perhaps this is a veiled barb against those who's lives ended because of this terrible disease.

    Moni Basu – please be a professional and purchase yourself a dictionary that you can refer to before using words in such an ignorant and hurtful manner.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • RM

      Before you berate someone for the use of a word (600,000 dieing is not a tragedy to you??) perhaps you should take some lessons on grammar.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      Ayala, despite your personal beliefs, it is pretty heartless to continuously post such insensitive and hateful remarks in such an arena. Regardless of your derranged sense of right and wrong, this article marks the death of thousands of people–a huge number of which were not even gay, by the way. Your comments only show your ignorance and hate. I pity your ignorance, and I feel that my loved ones who have passed away because of AIDS and HIV would pity you as well.

      August 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bordeauxe

    Thanks for such a thoughtful response and for sharing your experience.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. 0rangeW3dge

    See there, it's them Liberals at it again making quilts and doilies and hugging trees.
    They need to grow a pair and do what real Americans do, like knitting guns for our troops...

    June 25, 2012 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
  12. PhilG

    Anyone with a heart that sees the loving tributes these quilt sections represents will be moved almost to tears.

    So many lives wiped out by a disease that changes faces everytime it appears in another human being.

    Does'nt matter who you are,AIDS still can kill you.

    Even today.

    June 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      I found it difficult reading through this article and clicking the various links. My eyes would well up with tears...this article resonates with me. I've never seen the quilt but I plan to visit the National Mall this weekend.

      June 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • huhb

        Patrick: it's not quite appropriate for me to say "enjoy" you experience seeing the quilt. It's hard. But as you reflect on the lives lost, remember the work done by the still living. When the quilt was begun, AIDS was "gay cancer" (in fact, it was originally labelled GRID- Gay Related Immonu-Deficiency). "Perverts" (never minding the fact that they were still AMERICANS) were dropping dead left and right, and the government's responses was "uhhhhhh......so? They're just perverts, after all...."

        When you see the quilt, I hope you'll not only reflect on the lives lost, but also on the lives dedicated to fighting ignorance, fear, hatred, and political expedience. In fact, many of the names you'll see are the very same names that fought to bring action to fighting HIV/AIDS.

        Thank you for honoring them.

        June 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kay

    The world has been devastated a million times more by hate-filled bigotry like what you expressed than it ever has been harmed by AIDS.

    June 25, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  14. Anna

    I feel happy how people have done this for people who have died of HIV/AIDS

    June 24, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • bordeauxe

      It's amazing how important people said it was for them to make the quilt for others. They said it was a huge part of the healing process. Thanks for reading and responding!

      June 25, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  15. touchingmesoftly

    God bless u

    June 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Haian

      If you're really wierord about it, don't go to your doctor. There are always places where you can get tested and have the results kept confidential. Look in your city phone book, yellow pages. If you don't see anything, then look for your local LGBT equality center and they can tell you where one is, or call the AIDS Hotline, they can give you the location of your nearest testing site. With most of these places, the testing is free, however, if you want the results back right away, there is usually a charge, and you can get the results usually within 24 hours. If you opt to not pay, it takes a couple of weeks to get your test results back. In most of the places, you don't even have to give your name, they give you a number, and match your number to your test results.

      December 21, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  16. Genie Quincy

    Dear Lord, have mercy on us all. I had a 21 year old son die of AIDS, I have friends who died of cancer, friends in wars. My prayer is we will quit spitting venom on each other. Can we not have enough love & tolerance in our heart to grieve for all and to join together to support each other rather than inflict more pain. I volunteered for The Quilt for 9 years and it facilitated my healing and that of many others. l support many causes because it is not just about "me".

    June 24, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      We're going to be in D.C. on the 4th, and I intend to go see the Quilt. I haven't seen it since we completed our panel for our beloved friend and coworker, Greg Barker (back in 1990) and it was shown as part of the Quilt in Topeka in 1991.

      (And, yes, Fred Phelps picketed. The cool part, though? We got Lawrence, KS to pass an ordinance that prohibited the picketing of funerals for 1.5 hours before or afterwards...so that Fred couldn't picket Greg's funeral!! Yea Lawrence City Commissioners 🙂

      June 25, 2012 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
      • bordeauxe

        Kay, thanks for sharing your story! If you think of it, share some photos on iReport of your trip to see the quilt.

        June 25, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  17. Houstonian

    I will never forget the first time I was the Quilt. I was in high school and my senior year English teacher required us all to write a research paper on AIDS. We were allowed to use seeing the Quilt as a reference. It was heart breaking to see so many babies, children, and teens memorialized. Somewhere along the way it seems like the children here in America were forgotten and passed over for the children in Africa.

    June 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Bree

    One of my very good friends passed away with HIV many years ago..hats off to the people who have stepped up and let their voices be heard..oh and @ Jane..I really hope you do not honestly believe what you wrote..seems like youve been steered in the wrong direction my dear.. @ Scottie..well said..my hats off to you sir..

    June 23, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Really Jersey

    Scientists researching AIDS say gene markers show this was an already existing disease in the wild chimpanzees of Western Africa. A hunter could have caught HIV from just having the animal's blood get into a wound. That person would have passed it to others without knowing it. We have faster travel in this century that allowed it to spread more easily worldwide. Diseases often make the leap from animals to humans, like the bird flu. This disease was NOT created by whites, that is just a bigoted type of urban legend.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Really Jersey

    By the way; we all belong to the same race...Human.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  21. wellsaid

    I remember around 1986 when the first HIV positive case was confirmed in my state in India. He was kept in quarantine in a cell and people with bio-hazard suits would serve him food through a small hole. Updates were front page news in newspapers for a about a whole month. You can't blame people for treating these patients so harshly in those days- so little was known then.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  22. FauxNews

    If you want to cure AIDS, elect a Congress which allocates money to medical research rather than making craters in the Middle East desert.

    June 23, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brittany Zobrist

      "keep your thing where it belongs"? Do you understand how much that statement rips through my heart? I don't expect you to care, or even spend a nanosecond of your precious day thinking about what you've said. But let me tell you, you don't know anything. Anything at all. Maybe one day, when you grow old and watch your loved ones die around you, you might feel sorrow for saying things that affected people going through the same. I pity you. You're so ignorant in the way of the world. No one asks for this. It can happen to anyone. It could happen to you. I hope it doesn't, regardless of what you said. No one should have to go through this, and no one should have to go through the pain of watching loved ones die because of it.
      RIP to all those who have died. You will stay forever in my heart.

      June 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  23. huhb

    I hope your country never abandons you to die.

    June 23, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Cheryl Jefferies

    One American President, George H. Bush, did more to help combat AIDS in Africa than any other person. He started a program for funding and also for research that is still going on, I believe. He and Laura still do fund-raisers for that. Even Bono, of U2, praised him for his work in that effort.

    June 23, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeah, RIGHT!

      According to WHO? Media? Drugged out Radio DJs? Have you seen where that money went? Politics is manipulative. They tell you what you want to hear, you become dull to the obvious, ie contracts fro research going to 'contributing' Parties. Grass Roots ideas like this one has turned the fire on those w/$ and control to enforce. Some, although NOT MANY ANY MORE, media outlets show the public the waste. Been going on for years and to please the "'need' to knows" lower than dirt media lizards gain ratings by way of Manip. Tell all the bad, AFTER IT'S NEEDED. The ' I wasn't drunk before the cop pulled me over" Mentality.
      Please, produce your own opinion for those exposed to one of the worst shunnings, rather than repeat some piped in opinion here.
      Genie and OBO, what part of YOUR LIVES are you avoiding?

      June 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jem

        Actually the people in Africa honor GWBush for the huge progress made under his presidency. I had no idea until I went on a medical trip and worked with poor African villagers. So I think your opinion is framed around your personal opinion of GW Bush. Time to move past being a hater.

        June 29, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  25. GK

    Researchers are finding an interesting correlation. Many of those who have not seroconverted after being HIV+ for years have been found to have survived the black plague.

    June 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Emvaz

    Silly, the antiretroviral drugs are doing FAR more damage than any retrovirus could

    June 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Scott

    This disease is 100% PREVENTABLE


    June 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derp

      Really Scott? You can choose who your mother is? Also, avoid all people and biohazard products? Don't assist someone in an emergency, since you might get blood on you? Don't forget all the other body fluids it comes in, including breast milk. Can you trust your husband to never ever cheat on you and bring home the virus?

      June 24, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  28. huhb

    I saw the quilt when it was first displayed in DC in 1987. I've not seen it since, but I don't think I will ever forget the impact of it – even then it seemed to go on forever. It was crazy. Those of us who lived through the AIDS crisis will never forget.

    June 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • bordeauxe

      huhb, what was it that struck you most about that experience?

      June 25, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
      • Sebastian

        Ha, I see Paulette beat me to Fruit Stripe!I just want to say that string qiults usually don't make me drool. I appreciate the work that goes into them, like I do for any quilt, and I respect the frugality that drives some of them, like the ones that are made all from scraps. But love them? Not usually.Yours? LOVE. Ferociously.I keep looking at it trying to figure out what makes this one different for me. It might be the tiny lattice of white between the blocks — really gives it a sense of order without diminishing the sense of fun.Love! Thanks for sharing it.

        September 14, 2012 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
      • Gladimir

        When it first popped up on my sceern I thought of a Kaleidoscope! Kaleidoscope is a combination of three Greek words that mean an instrument with which we can see things of beautiful form. And this is a beautiful quilt! A three-mirror (closed triangle)Kaleidoscope yields a pattern that fills the entire field, which is what your quilt reminds me of. I would call it Kaleidoscope or Three Mirror. ;o) It's stunning!

        September 16, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  29. Jim Densmore

    Couple BIG errors here. The Quilt contains at least 95,000 panels and it was last displayed in 1995. I was there. I was a reader of names. II;ve made 4 of those panels. Where is the fact checker here?

    June 23, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • coskid

      Jim – was the ENTIRE quilt displayed in 1995, or just a section of it? I remember taking my kids to see it (but I don't remember the year – they were probably teen-agers at the time & they were both born in the late 1970's) – at that time it took up a lot of room on the "mall" but was still only a portion of the entire quilt. Not sure about any of the other points you mention. - IMHO, Any way you slice it, this is a disease that was ignored because the "victims" weren't important enough, or rich enough, to deserve proper attention. I wonder how this would have been treated had some corporate CEOs' children or presidents' children been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS??

      June 25, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  30. lexs

    AIDS causes, including the AIDS quilt, are all propaganda of the worst sort. AIDS has been a big lie all along and its time to scratch it off the list of problems the us needs to deal with.

    Start a quilt for cancer patients intead, including those who died because so much attention was diverted from cancer.

    AIDS diverted money from research for cancer and other diseases.

    AIDS is a minor disease now on the list of diseases that are problems. The main difference is taht it is backed by a powerful industrial complex.

    ADS is already a chronic disease rather than a deadlly disease. Enough has been spwent on AIDS research. Divert the money to more worthy research.

    June 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • lets sit and think for a moment

      because aids is a curable disease. cancer is not

      June 23, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jim Densmore

        There are no word to describe your ignorance. AIDS is a TREATABLE disease whereas some Cancers can be cured The response is "Want a Cancer Quilt" start sewing

        June 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emvaz

      Actually, those "millions" who died of AIDS in Africa and Asia more likely died of malnutrition, a septic water supply, and lack of general hygiene due to extreme poverty. The triggerhappy classification of large amounts of starving to death people in Africa as AIDS patients is simply a more pharma-friendly way of looking at things. Did you know that if you are an African and you have diarrhea, a fever, and weight loss, you are classified as an AIDS patient at a clinic without any blood test? yeah, those are solid numbers. And how is it that HIV behaves differently in the US than it does in Africa? How would a virus know what continent it is in? Oh yeah, because AIDS isn't caused by HIV.

      June 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  31. disgusted

    I'd like to see a quilt for all who have died in battle for their country. I'd like to see a quilt for those who died in the great flue epidemic. How about all the babies who were ripped from their mother's womb? Where is their quilt?
    To promote one while ignoring another simply dilutes your very message.

    June 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darcy Crosby

      Don't forget a quilt for those who can't spell words properly.

      June 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • disgusted

        would that make you feel better, because I had an e too many?

        June 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ned

      Cleve Jones started with just one 3×6 panel memorializing a friend. Besides your thinly veiled bigoted whining, what have you done. You are disgusting.

      June 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • disgusted

        What I have done allows me to sleep at night.

        June 23, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • huhb

      So why don't you start such a quilt, then?

      June 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
      • disgusted

        It exists, but the media doesn't shout about it. It isn't PC.

        June 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • Kay

        And just exactly what is your quilt for??? And what have you done to promote it??? After all, if you want people to know about it, you have to tell them...and now is your chance!!

        June 25, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • disgusted

      Sunny, you are unfortunately wrong. The media doesn't care about things that aren't 'politically hot'. Yes, I've done what I can. I am sure you have too. Unfortunately the press will never shout about them because frankly they are not 'politically correct'.

      June 23, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • disgusted

      peter, you are just mean.

      June 23, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdc

      you want a quilt, then go make one. Have like minded people make one too. And stop worrying about who gets glorified and why.

      June 23, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • touchingmesoftly

      Thank you

      June 23, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan TheKing


      June 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Well, the AIDS quilt started with a single panel. So why don't *you* create the first panel for the quilts that *you* want to see? Or are you just one of those complainers who at least claim to want to see 'something' done, but want someone *else* to do it?

      June 25, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Kam

      So have you started sewing panels for your quilts? No one is stopping you from making your own. If you don't know how to quilt take some classes. You can get a decent sewing machine off Craigslist. No message is being "diluted" by the AIDS quilt.

      June 25, 2012 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
    • coskid

      I'd be interested in seeing your quilt. Depending on the subject matter, I might even be convinced to make a panel. While no one in my immediate circle has died of AIDS (that I know of), I do have several relatives who died from various cancers, strokes, and heart disease. Do any of these fit the criteria for belonging in your quilt that no one seems to want to mention?

      June 25, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  32. LouAZ

    25 years later a people still don't know how AIDS is transmitted ?

    June 23, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Emvaz

      25 years later and people still don't know how AIDS is CAUSED

      June 23, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  33. EndTheHate

    More Americans died of AIDS than were killed in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined before an American president (Ronald Reagan) used the word "AIDS" in public.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • SilentBoy741

      So the whole "make love, not war" thing of the 1960s is actually a *bad* idea... ?

      June 25, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |