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AIDS Memorial Quilt Visits UC San Diego For World AIDS Day

Evening Edition

Aired 12/3/13 on KPBS News.

Sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display at UC San Diego's World AIDS Day event, where the theme was "getting to zero" — zero new infections, zero stigma and zero HIV-related deaths.

Sunday was the 25th World AIDS Day, but it has been 32 years since HIV/AIDS was identified in the United States. Science and medicine can extend the lives of those with the disease, but there still is no cure.

At UC San Diego on Monday, student health advocates gave out red ribbons, the awareness symbol for HIV/AIDS, and a biology professor played cello at the campus’ World AIDS Day event. The highlight of the event, however, was the display of sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The quilt is the world’s largest ongoing art project, and it honors those who have died of AIDS. It began in San Francisco in 1987, and now has more than 48,000 panels created by people from all over the world.

Shaun Travers, LGBT Resource Center director at UC San Diego, said the quilt is as important for the public as it is for those who have lost someone to AIDS.

“It’s a great way for people to be able to memorialize their loved ones," Travers said. "It’s a great way for those of us reading the quotes to think about and reflect on the impact AIDS has had in our society."

The first case of HIV was brought to the public’s attention in 1981. In 1982, scientists had identified gay men and intravenous drug users as the populations most at-risk of contracting and transmitting the virus.

Though the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community remains the most affected, it is now understood than anyone can contract HIV. In San Diego County, more than 14,800 people have been diagnosed with HIV. With advances in medicine, almost half of those people are still living.

Travers says the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day event at UC San Diego is getting to zero new infections.

“You do that through education. You do that through talking to young people, through talking to people who are at risk for HIV, and talking about how you can make choices to keep you from becoming infected,” Travers said.

As part of their World AIDS Day program, UC San Diego will also be providing free HIV testing on Tuesday, and artwork created from data about HIV/AIDS will be on display through Friday.

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