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AIDS Memorial Quilt Pays Tribute to Lives Lost

By Ioana Patringenaru | December 4, 2006

World AIDS Day at the UCSD Price Center (Photo / Victor Chen)
Sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were
on view at UCSD Thursday in the Price Center Ballroom.

For many, it’s a reminder of all the lives lost to AIDS. For some, it raises awareness and educates. For others, it’s a breathtaking and heartbreaking work of art.

Members of the UCSD community could decide for themselves Thursday, when the AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display in the Price Center Ballroom as part of the university’s marking of World AIDS Day. Almost all of the quilt’s 40,000-plus panels memorialize the life of a person lost to AIDS. Thursday, three of the quilt’s sections hung in the Price Center, each consisting of several individual different panels sewn together.

The sections on display were dedicated to “Todd W. Parker 1/25/61 — 9/27/93,” “Kelly Ray Melville born Sep. 16 1957 died Nov. 8 1993” and “Joseph Paul Jackson, MD,” among others. Someone had pasted a prayer by Jackson’s name. “Loving God, in whom is heaven; into your hands we commend your servant Paul,” it reads. “Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, into the glorious companies of the saints of light. Amen.”

“It’s just such a loss,” said Susan Shepherd, who works at the Geisel Library and dropped by the Price Center Ballroom to view the quilt Thursday afternoon. “It’s pretty overwhelming.”

AIDS Quilt (Photo / Victor Chen)
A detail of the quilt.

To UCSD staff member Chris Thomas, the loss is personal.  AIDS took one of his partners, his best friend and many other friends. The quilt helps put names and faces behind the story of the AIDS epidemic, Thomas said. He added that World AIDS Day helps him remember the reality of AIDS. “It really brings it home,” said Thomas, who works at UCSD’s HIV Neurobehavioral Research Center.

The quilt also helps educate people, said Rich Belmontez, a training manager in Environment, Health & Safety. HIV isn’t necessarily a death sentence anymore, he pointed out. “There are longtime survivors,” Belmontez said. “So there is hope.” For example, Thomas, HIV positive since 1990, has been on medications since 1996. He’s doing fairly well, with the support of family, friends and his partner, he said.

Belmontez added he learned something while helping organize World AIDS Day celebrations at UCSD with Thomas and many other volunteers. They put together a map showing the multitude of programs related to HIV/AIDS that UCSD runs in San Diego, the United States, Mexico, Africa and the rest of the world. Many people are now involved in these efforts, Belmontez pointed out. “The acknowledgement of that is profound,” he said.

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