Cross-cultural engagement hosted the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit last week in Argyros Forum 119A to commemorate those who have lost their lives to AIDS.
The exhibit displayed five quilts, each consisting of panels made by friends and family members who lost someone to the autoimmune disease. The panels contain inspirational quotes and loving messages for the victims.
Leon Lukic, a sophomore film production major, who is a program assistant for cross-cultural engagement, said the exhibit was originally brought to Chapman a few years ago in order to raise HIV and AIDS awareness on campus.
“It is important for the Chapman community to continually stay aware of the different issues that impact people here and around the world, such as AIDS and HIV,” Lukic said.
Gay rights activist Cleve Jones conceived the idea for an AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1985 when he planned a march to honor San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay politician elected in the U.S. and Mayor George Moscone, who were both assassinated in 1978.
Jones asked those participating in the march to write names of their lost loved ones on placards to carry during the march, which is why the movement is called the NAMES Project Foundation. People from cities most affected by AIDS – San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta – started sending in panels almost immediately.
The first quilt was displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1987 and it consisted of 1,920 panels. Today, there are more than 48,000 panels representing more than 94,000 people. The Quilt, deemed an official American treasure in 2005, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
In addition to the quilt exhibit at Chapman, there were also speakers and film screenings.
Jerika Lam, a professor at the School of Pharmacy, gave a talk about the spread of HIV/AIDS Dec. 3.
Lam, who studied infectious diseases at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, said there are 50,000 new infections every year, primarily among 13- to 24-year-olds.
“The college student population is the target that I want to focus on because if one is aware of how it is transmitted and of the treatments that are available, he or she can live as long as someone without the disease,” Lam said.
She emphasized that no one is immune to the disease.
“HIV does not discriminate,” Lam said. “It infects the gay population, the heterosexual population and unfortunately it is affecting more of the minority groups like African Americans, Hispanics and Asians. It’s just that they go unreported because of big stigma issues within their communities.”
Lam, who has given lectures about HIV/AIDS at other schools and conferences, said she hopes to increase awareness among college students.
“The reality is that teenagers and young adults are the most sexually active,” she said. “You can talk about other sexually transmitted diseases, but HIV and AIDS are still taboos in our community. It’s unfortunate because, just like with mental health and depression, we need to bring this up to the surface and talk about it.”