Historic Outdoor Exhibit Marks 35th Anniversary of AIDS Memorial Quilt

SAN FRANCISCO — The National AIDS Memorial marked the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with a historic outdoor exhibit in Golden Gate Park.

“This is actually the largest AIDS quilt exhibit ever in San Francisco and the largest exhibit in the past decade,” said the San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks’ general manager, Phil Ginsburg. “Each panel is uniquely designed to honor a precious life lost to AIDS. There is so much love in each of these panels.”

Today, the Quilt, considered the largest community art project in the world, has over 50,000 individually stitched panels with over 110,000 names.

“When I got here I didn’t really expect what I was going to see, but when I saw all these big quilts laid out I was kind of shocked,” said onlooker Jarret Zundel. “Seeing the staggering number of people who have died from this terrible disease.”

“Remember the names and that’s what the quilt is there for,” said National AIDS Memorial chief operating officer Kevin Herglotz. “It’s about always remembering these names and using the quilt as an educational tool so that we can learn from the lessons of the past so that we don’t repeat them in the future.”

Quilt co-founders Cleve Jones, Mike Smith and Gert McMullin officially organized the NAMES Project Foundation in 1987. In October of that year, the quilt was displayed for the first time at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. DC, during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

“At the start of the pandemic, of course, the stigma was overwhelming. People were dying alone and forgotten,” said co-founder Cleve Jones. “It hit my neighborhood very early and hard. Within a few years, almost everyone I knew was dead or dying or caring for someone who was dying, and I wanted to warn the world and also try to find a way for people to cry together.”

“Today, 35 years later, quilting continues to play an important role in the fight against the HIV epidemic,” said Gilead Sciences President and CEO Daniel O’Day. “The quilt plays a role in all of this by inspiring action, touching hearts and minds, and reminding us all of the cost of human life.”

“The quilt will continue to be a call to action,” said Dafina Ward, executive director of the Southern AIDS Coalition. “to amplify the experiences of those living with HIV and AIDS, to celebrate the legacy of those we have lost so they are not in vain and we can make things better.”

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