The AIDS memorial quilt, an instrument of education and remembrance since the late 1980s, was brought to Temple’s Main Campus last Thursday. The brothers of Phi Sigma Pi sponsored the event.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., panels of the memorial quilt were on display around the Bell Tower. Red ribbons were handed out to students, and donations were taken to further the cause of battling AIDS. Condoms were also distributed to promote safer sex.
Sections of the memorial quilt were adorned with the names of AIDS patients who have died. Poems, loving words from friends and family, articles of clothing and pictures of the AIDS patients were also sewn into the quilt.
Other materials included love letters, champagne glasses, tennis shoes, stuffed animals and records.
“I was impressed that Phi Sigma Pi made it possible for Temple students to see the quilt,” said third-year Film major Melissa Hamblin.
“I never miss the quilts,” said Ruth Ost, director of Temple’s Honors Program. “They are so moving… a reminder, person by person, of the price of this disease. The quilts provide intimacy. They sum up what was treasured about these patients, what makes them individuals, not just a generic group.”
More than 13 million people around the world have seen the quilt, and more than $2,650,000 has been raised in the United States alone for services for people with AIDS.
The AIDS memorial quilt website states the mission of the NAMES Project Foundation, the organization behind the AIDS quilt: illustrating the enormity of the AIDS epidemic, and increasing public awareness of AIDS.
A number of students and faculty believed these goals were not accomplished at Temple.
“It wasn’t very well-planned,” said third-year English major Lori Horwedel. “I didn’t see posters or anything. I was given a flyer the day before, but it wasn’t recognizable as a flyer for the AIDS quilt by the picture on it. I almost threw it away without looking at it.”
“There were empty tables, no one to witness the quilts. I’m sorry this wasn’t done more ritually and respectfully, and that it wasn’t better advertised,” Ost said.
“The event was meant to raise awareness,” she added. “Instead, it ended up being an example of how much AIDS is being ignored.”
Glenn A. Reitz, a senior African American Studies major and longtime public speaker on the issue of living and dying with AIDS, echoed Ost’s sentiment: “There are some issues that are too important to present poorly. This event was poorly planned, poorly executed, and will, ironically, be written up as a wonderful, well-coordinated day of charity on someone’s resume.”
Reitz, who has been HIV positive for more than 10 years, was also disappointed that there were no AIDS patients scheduled to speak about their experience with the disease.
“Those they are talking about should be consulted from the beginning,” he said. “There are many experts here at Temple and within the community on what it takes to actually bring about change, and how to best educate. There are resources available that were not sought after.”
Though Reitz feels that displaying the quilt is important, he felt that without any accompanying education, the event masked the reality of AIDS.
“It gives an aura of honesty and bravery to those who died of AIDS,” Reitz said, “But it also ‘sanitizes’ AIDS, making it acceptable and comfortable and avoiding the horror of slow social and physical death and the realities of it.”