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AIDS quilt on display during People Living with HIV/AIDS Forum

Until Jun 24, memorial hangs in four Centretown locations

ON DISPLAY. Each panel memorializes a person lost to HIV/AIDS. Credit: image: quilt.ca

For the first time since 2000, the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display in Ottawa. Brought here by the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS), the giant swathes of fabric commemorating people lost to AIDS will be on display at four downtown locations until Jun 24.

Its display coincides with the People Living with HIV/AIDS Forum.

The first AIDS quilt began in San Francisco in 1987; its Canadian counterpart was launched two years later. The Canadian quilt has over 600 three-by-six foot panels, each commemorating a life. It is now managed by The Names Project.

Larry Baxter, secretary for The Names Project, says the quilt was initially a political tool, used as a visual medium to make the epidemic real to Canadians.

“When you look at the birth and death dates, you can see some people died very young. You see the love put into the quilt panels, bringing magic to the life the person had,” he says. “Every panel is an act of love and appreciation the panel maker had for their loved one. It’s a way of grieving. Some people made a panel a year after their loved one died. Some people waited longer.”

The roughly 80 sections are stored in the homes of volunteers across the country. When they come out for display, it’s usually when they’re loaned to AIDS organizations or church groups.

“We haven’t been as proactive in letting people know that option [of adding a panel to the quilt in memory of a loved one] is there. We’re working with CAS to make to more visible, getting it out in the public more often,” says Baxter.

Until Wed, Jun 24, CAS and the Names Project are displaying the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt in four locations in downtown Ottawa:

The CBC Building: 181 Queen
Delta Hotel: 361 Queen
Ottawa Public Library: 120 Metcalfe
Scotiabank: 186 Bank (at Gloucester)