Read More, Get Involved
It is said that a quilt is like a history book. It tells you about the past and the people that lived then. Today, a group of Southern women dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS have taken the art of quilting to a whole new level with the help of the Internet.
The Living Quilt , sponsored by the Southern AIDS Coalition and Test for Life, highlights the high rates of HIV infection of women living in the South. The site includes about 50 video testimonials, called patches, which have been viewed 8,000 times. The site has received more than 4,000 visitors.
"It was a chance to put a spotlight on what was going on in the South, to finally have a place where women could be spotlighted and have a voice," says Gina Brown, a 42-year-old widowed mother of two from New Orleans. View Gina Brown's patch where she disclosed her positive status.
Most testimonials counter stereotypes of what HIV positive people look like, said Dr. Bambi Gaddist, community liaison and board member of the Southern AIDS Coalition and executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council.
For Gaddist, a CNN Hero for her work with the Southern AIDS Coalition, the quilt empowers, educates and encourages.
"It begins with knowledge. Knowledge is power, but it doesn't predict behavior," said Gaddist, who would like to see a "holistic approach" in educating the youth about HIV/AIDS.
"Abstinence has to be a part of the conversation-and this is not an either-or conversation," she said. Kids come to college lacking information and have to make many choices, Gaddist added. "When they leave prematurely it's not because they weren't academically gifted, but because they made poor choices."
"It's phenomenal," said Julia Llorente, 51, a widowed grandmother who received a positive diagnosis for pregnancy and HIV in 1989. "People from the privacy of their homes can tell their story and how it came to be. This is a window for people who may be afraid. It's excellent and it should go further into other parts of the country."
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 56,000 people tested positive for HIV in 2006 and HIV-related causes are the leading causes of death for black women ages 25 to 34.
Fia Curley is a writer for the OMHRC. Comments? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"How can we take something that is in writing – a report that some will read and many won't - how do we bring to light this epidemic?
"Empower people to test.
"What you see in the quote [patch] are women who, at this point of their lives, are saying I'm not going to hide anymore.
"You have a Bible in your house, but you don't have a health book?"
Dr. Bambi Gaddist, community liaison and board member of the Southern AIDS Coalition and executive director of the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council.
View Dr. Bambi's patch, help her quilt.
"We have, unfortunately, a very big stereotype in the Hispanic community where people are still afraid.
"It's not about bravery or anything of that sort; it's about putting the truth out there.
If you bump into someone you know at an HIV clinic, you have something in common - that's an ally.
"We have a lot of technology today, but it's about people. It's preventable. This is the one disease we can prevent."
View Julia's patch (In Spanish).
Julia Llorente, 51, a widowed grandmother who received a positive diagnosis for pregnancy and HIV in 1989.
Preventable 100 percent!
"I remember I always said that if I had kids I would never lie to them - I might not go into detail - but I would never lie to my kids.
"We have to remember that we were once young and thought we knew it all. We have to be honest and real with ourselves and then we'll be honest and real with our children.
"That's one thing I tell kids is even if you can live with it why would you want to.
Yes it's a chronic disease, but it's a chronic disease that's 100 percent preventable."
View Gina's patch.
Gina Brown, 42 medical Case Manager, NOAIDS.
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