by Cori Hilsgen
Compassion, mercy and love is what is sought by those affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1987, in the early years of the disease, there were no medications available. Many people died and there were great fears and stigmas associated with the disease. Even as the number of cases increased, there was limited action by the government.
To bring awareness of the epidemic and put a face to it, families, friends and partners made quilts of their departed loved ones.
The overall theme of the quilts is that each person was cherished and loved.
The quilts, along with 16,000 others, were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. These quilts greatly increased awareness for the government and the general population.
The Rural AIDS Action Network has a display of eight, 12-foot-by-12-foot sections of the 54-ton AIDS Memorial Quilt on display at the Minnesota Street Market.
Local RAAN representative Chris Bernard said this is the 25th year of celebrating World AIDS day on Dec. 1. According to a Minnesota-based census, at the end of 2012 there were 7,472 people living with HIV/AIDS and another 20 percent who are estimated to have HIV and don’t know their status. HIV testing is very important to discovering a person’s status and seeking care. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, which is the full-blown disease that jeopardizes the victim’s immune system.
Unlike other diseases, HIV/AIDS symptoms might not show up for many months or even years. If treated, medications allow a person to live a near-normal life. So far, there is no cure, but many advancements have been made.
“The quilts on display are very significant historical milestones in the progress of fighting this disease,” Bernard said.
The quilts are available for viewing from Dec. 2-12. The Minnesota Street Market will host events each of those days. The schedule includes:
Dec. 2 – Opening Night Reception/Stories from the Quilt
Dec. 3 – Prevention and HIV/AIDS in greater Minnesota
Dec. 4 – Social Work Night – Discussion of case management services for those with HIV/AIDS
Dec. 5 – HIV Testing Demonstration and testing discussion with Thu Danh
Dec. 6 – Movie Night: “And the Band Played On” – early history of epidemic and response in USA
Dec. 7 – 10 a.m.-noon quilt-making workshop – hands-on project.
Dec. 8 – 2 p.m. Dr. Jon Vener will discuss the history of RAAN and the early epidemic in Greater Minnesota
Dec. 9 – Tim Heymans, State of Minnesota – HIV/AIDS prevention in Greater Minnesota
Dec. 10 – Advocacy for change and role of Minnesota HIV Planning Council
Dec. 11 – Church and Community Support by Michael Graham MA, LPC
Dec. 12 – Candlelight vigil
All events are at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
The Market, located at 27 Minnesota St. W. in downtown St. Joseph, is open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.