At CCC, colorful quilts bring home reality of AIDS

December 02, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

From the balcony overlooking the Great Hall of Carroll Community College, a student spotted small groups clustering around several tables and two large, colorful quilts.

He called to a friend below, "What is all that stuff about?"

"AIDS," shouted Adam Burke, 18, who was watching "Common Threads," an Academy Award-winning video on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, playing on the television.

While his friend moved on to the next class, Mr. Burke continued to scan the exhibits.

"I think everyone knows about AIDS; the question is whether they will do something about it," he said.

The college in Westminster marked World AIDS Day with AIDS awareness exhibits yesterday. No display drew more viewers than the two 12-by-12-foot quilts, exhibited for the first time in Carroll County.

One quilt hung from the balcony. The other was spread across the floor. Many people stopped to study the names and messages stitched into the panels.

Families and friends create the individual pieces in memory of a deceased AIDS patient. Each 3-by-6-foot panel -- the size of a grave --bears a name, years of life and memorabilia of the deceased. The panels are sewn into quilts.

"Every four months, we get four new quilts," said Sylvia Schneider, a volunteer with the NAMES Project of Baltimore, which lent the quilts to the college. "It gives you an idea of how many local people are dying."

The panels usually tell "a story of a life," said Ms. Schneider.

She also brought photos of the panels that honor her 32-year-old son, who died of AIDS three years ago.

"Do the subtraction in their life years and it hurts," said Ms. Schneider of the names in the panels. "These are all young people."

Joette Campanello, 39, said the quilts brought the reality of the disease home to her.

"I am glad they brought this here for me to experience," she said. "I can feel the love and also the sadness."

Travis Blizzard, 19, treasurer of the CCC Student Government Organization, said the quilts "show the people part of it, not just the statistics."

While many students sped by the tables, some stopped to ask a question or take a brochure.

"People are reluctant to pick up material and afraid to be noticed," said Len Jackson of the People With AIDS Coalition. "They walk by the tables and look sideways."

Mr. Jackson always leaves information after an event and hopes people take advantage of it later.

"I haven't heard so many questions, but the students are picking up condoms," said Irwin Rothenberg, director of education for the Health Education Resource Organization in Baltimore.

"They all want to take a condom but they are afraid. This level of game-playing and denial will get them infected."

One young woman whisked by and quickly stuffed a condom into her pocket. A few of her companions laughed.

"This is an inhibited student body," said Mr. Rothenberg who noted "mostly women were taking the condoms."

He does about 25 educational programs a month for about 2,000 people and always passes out free condoms.

"Students don't think AIDS affects them but they are at risk as much as anyone else," he said.

"You can't tell by looking at someone if he or she is infected. It could be your next date. In this day, not using a condom can be a death sentence."

Lauren Levin, 18, a CCC student, said many young people are worried about the epidemic but "they go on doing the same old, same old."

"People take chances all the time," Ms. Levin said.

"Condoms should be available everywhere; then maybe kids would take them."

Paulette Fernekees, who wore "Someone I love has AIDS" on a pin, said several students asked her about testing for AIDS. She directed them to the Carroll County Health Department exhibit, which listed a hot line number.

John F. Green, a former student and college employee who now lives in Arizona, lent a painting to the event.

"I send you this painting with all my love and the love of those people whose hands I have held and watched die from AIDS," Mr. Green wrote.

Mr. Green, who was diagnosed HIV-positive four years ago, also wrote, "Ignorance not sexual intercourse is spreading AIDS."

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