FYIDC: A Lasting Memorial

by Laura

The NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt returns to Washington.

By Anne H. Kim

The AIDS Memorial Quilt (Photo courtesy the NAMES Project)

It’s been 25 years since a small group of strangers got together in San Francisco to create the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, their way of remembering those who had succumbed to the disease. As all of Washington prepares to host the return of the International AIDS Conference next week after a more than 20-year absence, the quilt — in its entirety — also makes its return to the nation’s capital.

The quilt was first unfurled on the National Mall in Washington in 1987, during a national march for gay and lesbian rights. Back then, it consisted of just under 2,000 panels. From there, a seven-member volunteer crew packed and moved the quilt from city to city across the nation, raising almost $500,000 for AIDS organizations throughout the country and helping to raise awareness about the disease.

Since then, the public art project has grown considerably in size. Today it consists of 48,000 panels, covering 50 miles and weighing 54 tons. Beginning July 21, all 48,000 pieces will be on view throughout Washington, the first time the quilt has been displayed in its entirety since 1996. But the public can view several panels, including the rarely seen “The Last One” bearing an unmistakable message, July 17 at The National Cathedral in advance of the complete unveiling. The church will also be holding a special interfaith memorial service July 21 with noted figure in the discovery of the pandemic, Dr. James Curran.

The quilt will be on display throughout Washington (Photo courtesy NAMES Project)

Other locations include Eastern Market, Human Rights Campaign Headquarters, George Washington University, the Torpedo Factory Arts Center and Nationals Stadium. For a complete list of locations, click here.

National Cathedral “From Darkness to Light” Interfaith Service

Saturday, July 21, 7 p.m.; Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington, D.C. 20016; Free, though tickets with a $4 handling fee are required and available here

International AIDS Conference

July 22-27; Walter E. Washington Conference Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20001; 202-249-3000



1.3 million square feet

$250 — the average cost to incorporate one panel into the quilt

$25 — annual cost to conserve and repair each panel

14 million — the number of people who have viewed the quilt since its inaugural display in 1987

1989 — the year the quilt was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize

$3 million — total amount the quilt has raised for North American AIDS organizations


22 — number of years since the United States hosted the International AIDS Conference

20,000 delegates expected to attend this year’s conference

200 countries participating

150 satellite meetings set to take place around the conference

Over 2,000 journalists are expected to attend


1 in 5 infected with HIV in the U.S. don’t know they are

Someone in the U.S. is infected every 9.5 minutes

More than 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS

33.4 million worldwide are living with the disease

(Sources: AIDS Memorial Quilt, International AIDS Conference, U.S. Dept. Health and Human Services)

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