Category Archives: history

The photo that brought AIDS home

In honor of World AIDS Day, CNN Health featured a slideshow of photos that held great significance for the history of AIDS in America. The featured photo was of AIDS victim David Kirby in his final moments, surrounded by family.

The photo was taken in November of 1990 by Therese Frare, who was a graduate student at the time.

While photos such as this one are often difficult to see, it is important to represent the history of HIV/AIDS through many mediums. This photo helped bring compassion and understanding to the AIDS epidemic during a time when people with AIDS were stigmatized and even ignored.

To view the entire slideshow, visit CNN Health.


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AIDS Memorial Quilt display in Bloomington

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is almost here!!

Sections of the internationally celebrated AIDS Memorial Quilt – a 54-ton, handmade tapestry commemorating more than 91,000 lives lost to AIDS – will be on display November 11-15 at Alumni Hall in the Indiana University Indiana Memorial Union, Bloomington. The 520-panel exhibit will be the largest AIDS Memorial Quilt display in Indiana history. Related events include performances by Kaia, the Bloomington Peace Choir, Voces Novae, Quarryland Men’s Chorus, and the African American Choral Ensemble; multiple screenings of Common Threads, a documentary about the Quilt; community quilting bees; and closing remarks from Mayor Kruzan. All events are free and open to the public.

The exhibit will be open during the following hours:

Thursday, November 11, 6pm – 9:30pm; opening ceremony at 6pm
Friday, November 12, 10am – 9pm
Saturday, November 13, 10am – 9pm
Sunday, November 14, 11am – 7pm
Monday, November 15, 10am – 4pm; closing ceremony at 4pm

Presented by the Community AIDS Action Group (CAAG) of South Central Indiana, The Names Project, and Union Board.

History and significance of the AIDS Memorial Quilt

The AIDS Memorial Quilt began with a single panel created in San Francisco in 1987. The Quilt is now composed of more than 47,000 panels, each one commemorating the life of someone who has died from an AIDS-related illness. These panels come from every state in the nation and every corner of the globe, and have been sewn by friends, lovers, and family members into this epic memorial – the largest piece of ongoing community art in the world.

In a war against a disease that has no cure, the AIDS Memorial Quilt helps make HIV and AIDS issues real, human, and immediate. By revealing the humanity behind the statistics, the Quilt helps teach compassion, overcomes taboo, battles stigmas and phobias, and inspires individuals to take direct responsibility for their own well-being and that of their family, friends, and community.

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National Coming Out day

Scene from first National Coming Out day

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out day, celebrated by thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They hold workshops, speak-outs, rallies and other kinds of events all aimed at showing the public that LGBT people are everywhere.

This year’s focus is on marriage equality. Only five states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and D.C. For more information, see the Human Rights Campaign’s Marriage & Relationship Recognition page.

Not many people know that National Coming Out day originated on the date of the first display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt — October 11th, 1987. The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was also happening on that day, purposely coinciding with the display of the Quilt on the National Mall in Washington.

While HIV and AIDS affect people of all ages, races, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, prevalence is still disproportionately high among gay men. On National Coming Out day, let’s reflect upon the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States, and have the courage to discuss sexuality and sexual health freely and openly.

For more history on National Coming Out day, visit the Human Rights Campaign website.

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Call-out from the 2010 United States Conference on AIDS

Every 9.5 minutes, someone in America is infected with HIV.

HIV may not make the headlines like it used to, but it’s still a serious, incurable illness. Far too many people are getting infected and far too few are getting care and treatment.

Every year, over 2,500 people from all fronts of the HIV epidemic gather to reconnect and recommit. What’s our next move– to mobilize and address the challenges of HIV.

It’s time to move. What’s your move?

One person can take medications as prescribed
I test, I treat
One person can get clean and sober
Una persona puede enseñarle a otra persona
One person can treat another
Two people can use a condom
One person can speak for those who have no voice
One person is not alone
One person can break down stigma and discrimination
One person can teach their children
One person can advocate for a friend
One person can live joyfully with HIV
All of us, with your help, can change the course of this epidemic.

Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of starting HIV medicines. Did you know that 1 in 5 people who have HIV in this country don’t know they have it? Too many people who are HIV+ are not in care.

Even today, far too many people are showing up late in their disease process when they are already sick.

Take it to the streets where you live, work, and play.

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Letter to the editor (Herald Times)

AIDS Memorial QuiltWe recently hosted booths at local Pride festivals, and spoke with many people whose lives were affected by HIV/AIDS. We were so moved by their stories that we decided to write a letter to the editor at the Herald Times. It was published on August 2nd.

HIV and AIDS awareness

To the editor:

The AIDS Memorial Quilt is coming to Bloomington this November and we were recently reminded why the quilt has been, and continues to be, poignant for the local community.

While staffing a booth for the Community AIDS Action Group at several area fairs, we heard many stories about how HIV affects Indiana residents. One man walked us through memories of watching friends die from HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. A young woman asked about displaying her uncle’s memorial square. Some asked how to make a quilt square for loved ones who died from AIDS-related illnesses. Others told us they had friends in Indiana who have been HIV-positive for many years and are otherwise strong and healthy.

We live in a time when anti-retroviral drugs can extend and improve the lives of HIV-positive individuals. More people know how HIV is spread and how to protect themselves. HIV-related topics don’t often make headline news, so many Hoosiers don’t see HIV as a problem. We encourage Indiana residents to realize the importance of HIV and AIDS awareness, as quilt panels are being added every day. Hopefully, the AIDS Memorial Quilt will soon stop increasing in size and become a relic of a cured disease.

Anna Saraceno and Bethany Lister


The writers are members of the AIDS Memorial Quilt planning committee.

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HIV through the years

CNN Health recently featured a story about the experiences of three different men with HIV in the United States. While HIV is seen much differently in the U.S. now than it was in the 80’s, it is still important to be aware of how HIV and AIDS affect our own communities.

See the article here.

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Why We Fight

Vito Russo (1946-1990) was an American LGBT activist, film history, and author who is best remembered as the author of the book The Celluloid Closet.

In 1988, Russo delivered a speech entitled “Why We Fight” at the ACT UP demonstrations in Albany, NY and Washington D.C. His message is still poignant; it allows us to examine the progress we’ve made, as well as obstacles we still face, in regards to HIV/AIDS awareness.

Following is an excerpt from the speech:

Living with AIDS is like living through a war which is happening only for those people who happen to be in the trenches. Every time a shell explodes, you look around and you discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them. They’re walking the streets as though we weren’t living through some sort of nightmare. And only you can hear the screams of the people who are dying and their cries for help. No one else seems to be noticing.

And it’s worse than a war, because during a war people are united in a shared experience. This war has not united us, it’s divided us. It’s separated those of us with AIDS and those of us who fight for people with AIDS from the rest of the population.

You can read the rest of the speech transcript, as well as watch the video, on the ACT UP web site.

To learn more about the life and impact of Vito Russo, see the following resources:

  • Vito Russo: Papers, 1969-1990 (PDF)
    From the The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library, the papers reflect Russo’s personal life and career as a writer, lecturer, film historian, and gay rights and AIDS activist. They include correspondence, journals, appointment books, writings by and about Russo, floppy disks, photographs, videotapes, audio cassettes, vinyl records, ephemera, and posthumous material.
  • Queer Legends: Who was Vito Russo?
  • Activist: The Times of Vito Russo (Facebook page)

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