New exhibit reflects on AIDS epidemic and looks to grow conversation about virus

New exhibit reflects on AIDS epidemic and looks to grow conversation about virus

New exhibit reflects on AIDS epidemic and looks to grow conversation about virus
November 04
13:44 2017

UNT Special Collections put together an exhibit on the AIDS epidemic of the late 20th century, with a focus on the NAMES AIDS Memorial Quilt and other quilts memorializing those who lost their lives to the virus.

The exhibit, entitled “Threads of Remembrance,” traces its roots in two ways. The first through the NAMES AIDS Memorial Quilt that was put on display at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 30 years ago. The other is through North Texas’ response in the early and middle stages of the AIDS epidemic under the leadership of the Dallas and Fort Worth Chapters of the NAMES Project Foundation. The quilt is composed of over 49,000 panels displaying 96,000 names, each a victim of the AIDS virus.

The quilt, which serves as one of the driving forces behind the exhibit, helps contextualize those who have lost their lives to the virus in both its size and spirit, said Alex Sylvester, student services coordinator for the UNT Pride Alliance.

“The AIDS quilt shows the humanity of those who have been lost,” Sylvester said. “When we look at the quilt, rather than seeing numbers and statistics, we see people who had lives, families and who were not and are not alone. The size of the quilt when we view it fully assembled is also staggering, which shows the degree of the issue while humanizing those who have died.”

Threads of Remembrance was developed and researched by Special Collections Exhibits Coordinator Jaimi Parker. Parker was particularly inspired to pursue the AIDS Quilt topic due to the continued prevalence of AIDS in our society.

“There’s not as much conversation about the AIDS epidemic, and AIDS and HIV as a current issue,” Parker said. “It still is a growing problem. Look at Dallas. It is one of the fastest growing cities for new cases of HIV. It is a big deal and nobody is talking about it.”

According to the 2016 Texas HIV Surveillance Report, Dallas County has one of the highest rates of HIV diagnosis in the state, with 31.7 people out of every 100,000 diagnosed.

Highlights of the exhibit include a memorial quilt loaned for display in the exhibit by the Turtle Creek Chorale. The Chorale is a Dallas based men’s chorus. The group was formed in 1980 with 30 members and has grown to as many as 200 in 2013. The men of its ensemble have dealt and battled with AIDS over the years, as Parker said 197 choristers have lost their lives to the virus.

For Parker, the Chorale and its experience with AIDS serves as a poignant reminder of what the virus can to do a community.

“By 1993 the Chorale had lost 90 members to the disease,” Parker said. “This is staggering, They usually have a membership of 200 each year, so they have basically lost an entire chorale worth of friends to the disease.”

Parker hopes the exhibit will help raise awareness for the deadly disease at its core.

“I think our main goal in doing this exhibit is to educate and start that conversation [about HIV and AIDS],” Parker said. “Our main audience is the UNT student body. There is not that much of a conversation about HIV and AIDS, so just being able to start that conversation and maybe help people learn something through it would be great.”

The exhibit will continue to be available for viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 15 in Willis 437, as well as online.

Featured Image: The AIDS memorial quilt exhibit can be viewed Monday through Friday from nine a.m. to five p.m. in room 437 within Willis Library. Dana McCurdy

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Camila Gonzalez and Joshua Cassidy

Camila Gonzalez and Joshua Cassidy

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