“Unless we tell their stories, they are not there.”*
Since it began on 1 December 1988, World AIDS Day has put strong focus on the global fight to remove the threat of HIV and AIDS.
First diagnosed in 1981, the HIV and AIDS epidemic remains one of the most significant public health issues, particularly in less affluent countries. In Australia, original safe sex messages have lost their impact. This is leading to a gradual increase in infection rates.
This year the theme of World AIDS Day is: ‘Getting to zero; Zero New HIV Infections; Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths’.
The main aim of World AIDS Day is to educate and put focus on increasing awareness. A crucial aim is to promote understanding and combat prejudice.
A poignant reminder of the impact of AIDS is the Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt collection. Ninety-seven of these quilts are held by the Powerhouse Museum. Created by partners, families and friends, each quilt is made up of eight panels. Each panel represents one or more people who died from AIDS.
The idea for a memorial quilt began in the USA in 1987. Andrew Carter and Richard Johnson began the Australian Quilt Project the following year. The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt Project was launched in Sydney on 1 December 1988. The quilt is now a valuable resource for promoting community dialogue. The quilts offer an evocative record of those who died of AIDS.
The quilt pictured above contains the panel of Elizabeth Ann, an eighteen-month old baby when she died. She was sister to a remarkable young woman, Alischa Ross. Ms Ross lost her mother, stepfather and sister to AIDS and founded the successful organization YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS).
This year the Museum has lent the quilt featured above to St Vincent’s Hospital. The quilt panels remember: Purli Sudds, Michael, Jeffrey, John B, Kevin G, Steve/Steven McKenny, Stephen Wells, Anthony John Williams, Michael Wayne Garnam and Tony Kell.
* Libby Woodhams, Sydney Quilt Project convenor, 2010. Quilt, Australian AIDS
Memorial Quilt, various makers and places of manufacture, Australia, 1991. Gift of the
Quilt Project, Sydney 2011. 2011/109/18
Written by Anni Turnbull, curator