Nov 302006
 
Authors: HEATHER HAWKINS

The panels are colorful, crafted by expert quilters and those who can barely paint with stencils alike. Markers and cloth spell out names, birth dates and hometowns. Song lyrics, mountains, photos, keys and hearts convey talents, personalities and wishes.

“Don’t be afraid, be aware,” reads one of more than 40,000 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt that commemorates the lives of people lost to AIDS.

“It’s incredibly moving,” said 26-year-old Lucas Walker, a community liaison and program assistant at the Northern Colorado AIDS Project. “Each panel is so detailed and specific to the person it’s memorializing.”

For World AIDS Day today, members of NCAP and numerous CSU organizations made small panels and ribbons to add to the quilt.

CSU fashion merchandising students sewed the individual panels together, creating a 3-by-6-foot memorial ribbon, said Shauna DeLuca, the interim coordinator for International Education.

The quilt panel will be on display from 6 to 8 p.m. today during a vigil in the Lory Student Center Art Lounge. Names of Colorado residents who lost their lives to HIV will be read at the vigil in addition to four short presentations, live music and lighting of candles, DeLuca added. People who have lost a family member to AIDS may sign the panel.

“(The quilt is) something very personal for every person who participates because they are creating their own memorial for their loved one,” DeLuca said.

The Names Project Foundation started the quilt in 1987 “to foster healing, heighten awareness, and inspire action in the struggle against HIV and AIDS,” according to its Web site, www.aidsquilt.org.

Eight individual panels are sewn together to make 12-foot square blocks that are displayed across the globe. The blocks, made by families, friends, schools, agencies and medical centers, can be viewed on the quilt’s Web site.

NCAP and CSU have hosted quilt blocks three or four times since 2000, although none are currently in Colorado, Walker said.

“It’s incredibly impressive,” he added. “There is a wealth of stories. It’s a real work of art.”

Someone can make a quilt panel and never see it again.

“A person in Illinois can see panels from Colorado or California,” Walker said. “That’s kind of the value of it. The story spreads.”

The memorial quilt is the largest ongoing community arts project in the world, according to the quilt’s Web site.

NCAP is a nonprofit organization that began in 1986 to provide support, comfort and financial assistance to HIV-positive people. It strives to improve the quality of life for people affected by HIV and AIDS and help stop the spread of the disease, Walker said.

“It’s the most relevant work I’ve ever taken part in,” Walker said about working at NCAP. He believes AIDS is a major challenge for our generation, and World AIDS Day is a good time for people to ask what they can do to make a difference in the world.

AIDS is not just a U.S. or African problem, he said. It’s a global crisis that affects all ages, genders and orientations.

About 10,000 Colorado residents are living with HIV or AIDS, Walker said. Globally, women ages 18 to 24 and minorities are at high risk for contracting the disease as well as gay men in the United States, he added.

HIV is an autoimmune disorder spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. It causes the body to attack itself, reducing T-cells that destroy infections, according to the NCAP Web site, www.ncaids.org. An infected person has AIDS when he or she develops serious symptoms. Infections like cancer and pneumonia actually kill the person.

Through the quilt, people who have felt the impact of AIDS can send one final message out to their loved ones.

“Sweet Dreams Randy Boswell.”

Staff writer Heather Hawkins can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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During World AIDS Day, NCAP will also be giving low- and no-cost HIV tests in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley. For information about testing or any questions about HIV and AIDS, people can call NCAP’s main office at 484-4469.

Also, the LSC Arts Program will carry on the tradition of a Day Without Art in remembrance of the affect AIDS has had on the artistic community. All art hanging in the student center will be covered to promote awareness of the disease.

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