Arts & Entertainment

AIDS quilt comes to LA for World AIDS Day

Volunteers lay out the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall on July 23, 2012 as part of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC.
Volunteers lay out the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall on July 23, 2012 as part of the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

One of the most powerful symbols of the AIDS epidemic has come to Los Angeles.

Three panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a mosaic of large, decorated swaths of fabric honoring people who have died from the disease, are on display in Beverly Hills through Sunday, Dec. 4.

The panels have been installed at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Beverly Hills Public Library  Center — one of several events connected to World AIDS Day, which is marked annually on December 1.

"I think it shows not only what people went through and what was lost because we weren't listened to, but I think it shows our resilience," says Lucas Grindley, editorial director of Here Media, which owns the Advocate and other gay-themed publications.

A panel contains numerous squares, each of which is about the size of a bed. In total, the quilt includes more than 48,000 panels, too vast to be displayed in any single location. Instead, panels are displayed at locations around the world.

More than three decades after the outbreak of the disease, the AIDS quilt remains a powerful visual reminder of AIDS — its tragedies, its triumphs and the work still to be done.

"People are hearing the message that HIV is no longer a death sentence but they're not getting other half of the message," Grindley tells KPCC. "Fully half of all gay black men will get HIV in their lifetime. If we believed we ourselves had a 50 percent risk of contracting HIV, we would be doing something about it. And I don't think we're doing that. We ought to confront that risk as our own. I'm hoping that's what people take away from it."

San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones came up with the idea for The Quilt in 1985 while planning a march honoring slain San Francisco politicians Harvey Milk and George Moscone.

The display of the Quilt in Beverly Hills is free and open to the public.