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Quilt display to provide forum for discussion on HIV/AIDS in Athens County

ATHENS, Ohio (May 15, 2006) -- The AIDS Memorial Quilt project, the biggest community arts project in the world, is coming to Ohio University on May 15, 16 and 17. Twenty blocks of the quilt will be displayed in Baker Center Ballroom. Each block consists of an average of eight panels that are each three feet by six feet (the size of a coffin).

"The goal in bringing the quilt to Athens is to regenerate community members' awareness of AIDS and to help individuals understand that the syndrome can affect anyone. The number of individuals infected with HIV/AIDS is steadily rising and the need for awareness and education is ever-present," said Char Kopchick, director of Health Education and Wellness at Ohio University. 

Charged with the task of providing support for local HIV/AIDS patients and their families is the Athens AIDS Task Force. The task force is a nonprofit organization, governed by a board of directors, which provides case management services to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Sue Armentrout, a social worker for the task force, helps clients from all over Southeastern Ohio.

"The first time I saw the quilt, I realized that it gave people who have died from HIV and AIDS a name instead of just a number," Armentrout said. "It was a good way to see who they were and that they were real people. Just recently, I have lost clients who, in my opinion, were not ready to die. HIV is such a horrendous disease. It shows no mercy and crosses all boundaries."

Armentrout emphasizes that HIV affects more than just one group of people. 

"It is not just a homosexual disease; it is a human disease," Armentrout said. "I have lost several clients to AIDS in my time with the Athens Aids Task Force and their stories will break your heart. It is time that we start putting faces to this devastating disease so that people can see the importance of helping those affected in Southeastern Ohio."

The AIDS Memorial Quilt project, started by the NAMES Project Foundation, began in 1987 as a dedication to those who had lost their lives to AIDS. It currently has more than 46,000 and 83,440 names of dedication. More than 15 million people from all over the world have viewed the quilt in thousands of displays, and the project has raised in excess of $3 million for AIDS service organizations throughout North America. 

The university's Department of Health Education and Wellness is organizing the event, and they have recruited approximately 400 volunteers to assist them during the three days the quilt will be in Athens. Admission to view this emotional display is free, but donations will be accepted on behalf of the Athens AIDS Task Force. 

In addition to the quilt display, several other events will take place during the quilt's stay in Athens: 

  • A lecture about HIV will be given by Kathryn Huebner of Planned Parenthood on Monday, May 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the 1804 Lounge of Baker Center.
  • There will be free and anonymous HIV testing on Tuesday, May 16, from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. in Baker Center Ballroom.
  • A lecture titled "The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt: Twenty Years and Still Counting" will be given by Ronald Aman, assistant professor of art at Ohio University, Tuesday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the 1804 Lounge of Baker University Center.

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Media Contact: Katie Gehlfuss, (740) 707-9707, or Sue Armentrout, (740) 592-2690

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