The National AIDS Memorial (NAM) has teamed up with Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC) and Gilead Sciences to ‘change the pattern’ of HIV in Black, Brown, and LGBTQ communities across the South. As part of the collaboration, the groups brought the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Alabama.
Running through Sunday, Dec. 4, in Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham. The event will also take place in other cities across the nation. Attendees will have the opportunity to view the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a carefully crafted hand-stitched piece that was created by people who have lost loved ones due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
A major feature will be a panel created by legendary civil rights icon Rosa Parks. The revered created the piece to raise awareness about the disease in Black communities.
“Rosa Parks participated in creating a portion of the Quilt in 1989 to honor a friend who lost their lives to AIDS and to raise awareness of how HIV was affecting the Black community back then. Once again, the Quilt is bringing awareness to a new generation of people,” said Jada Harris, the program manager at National AIDS Memorial, in a statement.
Event-goers will also take part in free community activities, workshops, and a film screening of “Changing the Pattern to End HIV Disparities: Surviving and Thriving,” a documentary that contains political commentary provided by comedian Roy Wood Jr. HIV-Testing, and screening will also be offered on-site.
Change the Pattern’s initiative comes at a dire time for HIV awareness.
Over the last two years, a growing number of HIV cases have impacted the South. In 2020, the south comprised 38% of the U.S. population but represented over half (52%) of new HIV diagnoses. In Alabama alone, one in six residents living with AIDS is unaware of it, according to Change the Pattern’s website.
The disproportionate burden of HIV in the South has sorely impacted Black, Brown, and LGBTQ community members, with over 75% of new cases coming from all three communities, the organization reported.
In addition to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee rank in the top 15 states with the highest rates of HIV in the country. Racism, homophobia, and HIV stigma continue to exacerbate the growing issue.
“Bringing the Quilt to Alabama allows us to shine a light on the systemic struggles communities of color face, not just in the fight to end HIV, but the health and social justice issues that for too long have been ignored,” said Dafina Ward, executive director, Southern AIDS Coalition. “By bringing the community together, providing support for each other, and raising awareness through advocacy, we will change the pattern.”