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AIDS quilt displayed at UNC-Chapel Hill memorializes victims, raises awareness in younger generation

January 13, 2018 GMT

In the 1980s, an AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence. While it is no longer considered an epidemic, it is still a public health concern.

The AIDS Quilt, which when assembled would cover then entire National Mall, in Washington, D.C., includes 48,000 victim names.

A panel of it is currently hanging in the student union at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The sheer amount of names is poignant, but it’s the name Jeremy that UNC sophomore Elizabeth Trefney and her father John care about the most.

“When you go and see these panels, you see people’s lives and people’s stories, and I think that’s really inspiring,” Elizabeth Trefney said.

While her uncle Jeremy died before she was born, Trefney said he inspires her.

“I had always known about him, and I grew up hearing stories about how we are so similar,” she said.

John Trefney said both his daughter Elizabeth and brother Jeremy are musically talented and pianists.

“When she plays piano, the way she talks to you, it just reminds me of my brother,” John Trefney said.

The quilt is meant to be a reminder, something UNC junior Kirby Caraballo believes her generation needs.

“AIDS is not a big part of our lives anymore,” Caraballo said. “You need to be sure to do what you can, something like that to bring awareness would be a good thing,”

John Trefney agrees, and he hopes the quilt will be a constant reminder to people who walk past it.

“You just look at it, it will touch you, no matter what walk of life you’re from, what age, what your political whatever opinions are, put it all aside,” John Trefney said.

Elizabeth Trefney is studying art and public health.

“I want to use art and combine the two fields to be an advocate for people with AIDS, and I hope that people are inspired to take action in the fight against AIDS and HIV,” she said.

Trefney was inspired by an HIV/AIDS course she took at UNC and contacted the Names Project Foundation in Atlanta, which is the custodian of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

“At first, I just requested bringing a section of the quilt to campus,” Trefney says. “Then I learned I could request my uncle’s panel. It will be the first time anyone in my family has seen it.”

The quilt panel will be on display from Jan. 10-31 and is open to the public.

There will be a special presentation of the quilt in an act of unity on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.