The AIDS Memorial Quilt, which represents individuals who have died due to complications from AIDS, on display in the Fairhaven Auditorium. The quilt is a globally recognized symbol of awareness for people who have been affected by HIV and AIDS. Photo by Joe Rudko/The AS Review

Kelly Sullivan/The AS Review

One vibrantly colored 6-by-3-foot quilt panel chronicles a single life lost to AIDS. The panel is sewn to seven similarly dimensioned strips that create one 12-by-12-foot block consisting of eight stories of lives affected by the disease. The block makes up just one section of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, which has over 44,000 panels.

Four sections of the quilt were brought to Western by the Associated Students Social Issues Resource Center during HIV/AIDS Awareness Week, held Jan. 24 through Jan. 28.

“It’s enormously powerful,” said SIRC Assistant Coordinator Laura Gorrin. The quilt, originally presented in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1987, is a globally recognized project meant to raise awareness for HIV and AIDS.

Gorrin first saw the quilt when she was in high school. Bringing it to Western was a way to show activism through art, she said. The four sections were hung in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room and the Fairhaven Auditorium.

Volunteers were on hand to answer questions about HIV and AIDS. The SIRC also placed a comment sheet by the quilt for people to share their feelings and thoughts. One anonymous commenter wrote, “Somewhere in the country someone is looking at my handprint on my uncle’s square. I hope it moves them as this has moved me.”

On Jan. 25, the AS Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance held an event called “Living with AIDS,” featuring a presentation by Scott Bertani of the Evergreen AIDS Foundation, a Bellingham-based AIDS service organization.

Ben Crowther, LGBTA programs coordinator, saw Bertani speak on campus last year, and said during the two hours he spent listening, he learned more about HIV and AIDS than he had from anyone else during his entire life. Crowther said he felt it was important to bring Bertani back to campus, since very little information exists about what it is like to live with AIDS.

Bertani also answered questions from the audience and cleared up misinformation about the disease. Crowther said Bertani corrected the false belief that if two sexual partners have HIV, then they can’t spread the virus between each other again.

In fact, it is possible to spread the virus again after unprotected sex because there are different strains of HIV, which can still be spread between two individuals who are already HIV-positive.

During his presentation, Bertani explained that the life expectancy of people living with AIDS is almost the same as that of the average healthy person, as long as they stick to their medication, lead a healthy lifestyle and maintain their white blood cell count.

The AS Sexual Awareness Center put on the final event for the week on Jan. 26, which was a discussion titled “Mythbusters: HIV/AIDS Myths and Facts.”

Shawna Leader, SAC coordinator, said the purpose of the event was to present information about safe sex, HIV and AIDS. During the discussion, students tested their knowledge of contraceptives. Three condoms were passed around which were either safe, expired or had a hole in the packaging, Leader said.

She was surprised that not everyone checked the expiration date, or was able to catch the damage in the packaging.

Leader said she wanted to stress the idea that people with HIV and AIDS have done nothing wrong, and anyone having sex should know about the educational resources available to them.

The SAC, located in VU 518, provides free contraception, including dental dams and condoms, as well as free individual counseling and information on safe sex.

Western’s Student Health Center, located on the southern part of campus, provides anonymous testing for sexually transmitted diseases and infections.