Friday, April 26, 2013 | 4:13 p.m.
Panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt have made their way to Southern Nevada.
Three of the quilt's panels honoring those from Southern Nevada who have died from HIV/AIDS are on display through the end of the month at the headquarters of Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN), 1120 Almond Tree Lane, Las Vegas. Hours at the office are 8 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
The NAMES Project Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization founded in 1987, is the caretaker of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a continually growing patchwork of names designed to humanize the devastation and threat of AIDS and bring public attention to the epidemic.
“It was a way of making a statement that this is a crisis and it’s going to continue to be a crisis,” Antioco Carillo, AFAN’s executive director, said about the genesis of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which dates to 1985. Today, the quilt now displays more than 94,000 names and covers more than 1.3 million square feet, according to the NAMES Project.
The three quilt panels at AFAN are among the 48,000 such memorials across the nation.
Bringing the panels to Las Vegas occurred only after a months-long application process to secure the rights to borrow the panels. With a little help from an endorsement from the Clark County Health District, the AFAN got the panels April 5.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is important in that it helps people remember when things were far worse, Carillo said, when doctors were afraid of AIDS patients and when many thought the disease could be spread with a handshake.
“If you put yourself into the process of what it takes to make these, it gets very emotional,” Carillo said. “Twenty years, or 50 years, or a 100 years from now, we want to preserve this crisis we went through when no one was paying attention.”
Back then, casualties from the disease were mounting. AIDS was poorly understood, and the medical advancements of today were still decades away from existence. The disease was seen as a death sentence, and Carillo knew many who would max out their credit cards once diagnosed as a final farewell to life.
The quilt panels can help people remember those times when the outlook for AIDS patients was at its worst, and for the loved ones that made an important impact.
The quilt is a way of coping with the grief, and of remembering the best qualities of the fallen: what they looked like, who they were, and who they hoped to become. It’s key, Carillo said, to keeping some part of the person alive.