Survivors of those who succumbed to AIDS invited to quilting sessions Panels will be sewn on 10-acre quilt HOWARD COUNTY HEALTH

September 14, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Howard County residents who have lost a loved one to the AIDS epidemic can make an emotional statement about their loss by sewing panels for the international AIDS Memorial Quilt, beginning this Saturday.

And in December, residents will get a chance to view portions of the larger quilt at Howard Community College to mark World AIDS Day, an event intended to promote education about the disease.

The 10-acre quilt is a product of the NAMES Project Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that has stitched together panels bearing the names of more than 25,000 who have died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Though the entire quilt was displayed on the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., last year, the December event will represent the first time parts of it have been to Howard County.

Public health officials say the quilt helps dramatize the impact of the epidemic.

"It's such a moving experience to see it," said Joyce Boyd, health officer of the Howard County Health Department. "It personalizes the people who have died of AIDS."

The quilt originated in San Francisco six years ago.

Each 6- by 3-foot panel represents an average-sized adult coffin. Messages, photos and other mementos often decorate panels.

"There's anger expressed, love, confusion," said Lenny Green, chairman of the public education and awareness committee for AIDS Alliance of Howard County, and the driving force behind the quilt's appearance in the county.

The Columbia man made panels for his older brother and for his companion when they died of complications from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Mr. Green decorated his lover's panel with his companion's button collection, glasses, a T-shirt, photos, hearts and messages from relatives.

For his brother, a devout Muslim, he chose a profile of the African continent, an Islamic prayer, and his brother's Islamic name.

"They were both very powerful people," Mr. Green said.

He said making the panels helped him cope with his losses.

One of the most emotional times is when you part with the panels," Mr. Green said. "I felt like I was sending a part of both of them out to be a part of the educational process, to be a part of the healing process."

Viewing the quilt will help cement rudimentary knowledge about AIDS and HIV, and change commonly held misconceptions about those who have the disease, he said.

"To me, it's a learning foundation," said Mr. Green, who speaks to school groups about HIV and AIDS. "You hear all the words and warnings, but you don't understand that these are real human beings just like yourself."

The local quilting bees will take place on Saturdays at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center from 9 a.m. to noon. The first is this Saturday, the second is Oct. 2, and the third is Oct. 16. Additional quilting bees will be held as needed. Fabrics will be provided for the quilting bees, and members from the Baltimore NAMES Project will be on hand to help. Finished panels will be added later.

In conjunction with the quilt display on Dec. 3 and 4, a professional conference with guest speakers will take place, sponsored by Howard Community College, the AIDS Alliance of Howard County and the county health department.

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