National AIDS Quilt on display in state during 35th anniversary as HIV rates rise in the state

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIV rates in Jackson are again the fourth highest in the nation after dropping to seventh in the U.S. in 2019 before the pandemic. The numbers are rising across the south with Mississippi having the eighth highest HIV rate in the country.

The National AIDS Memorial Quilt is on display in Jackson. The Changing the Pattern exhibit hopes to focus attention on the state’s surging statistics.

“He was an awesome and amazing person, and he brought joy to a lot of people,” said Valencia Robinson while pointing to a white quilt panel decorated with black and gold designs.

The Executive Director of MS in Action is talking about the AIDS Quilt panel honoring her friend Roy Lee Lockett. She worked on the section with his Montage family in Jackson. It is one of 25 panels on display, a memorial to those who lost their lives in the state.

“What I want people to realize HIV is still real,” said Robinson. “It’s still here, and we have to continue to decriminalize HIV and get people tested and in care and still love our community.”

Actress and HIV activist Sheryl Lee Ralph participated in the opening event at the MS Civil Rights Museum Wednesday. She’s shared her concern for rising rates in the south, describing them as a crisis at disproportionate heights.

Twenty panels of the quilt are also on display at the Jackson Medical Mall. Images designed to promote conversation.

“Secrets impacted a whole family,” said Stephanie Laster.

She is the AIDS Memorial Quilt senior facilitator. Her uncle’s wife told the family she had cancer, but she died of HIV. She passed it on to her baby who had constant nosebleeds, and then other relatives contracted the virus.

Laster is also diagnosed and created a quilt honoring her family members who died. The large brown quilt is adorned with their faces and names.

“That’s our whole family and 25 years later I’m still telling the story, and this will be my spot,” said Laster pointing to an empty space in the middle of the 3X6 foot cloth. “We must make it safe enough for people to feel comfortable enough to share their status.”

The exhibit is free and on display through October 4. Saturday admission is free at the Two Museums. This is the 35th anniversary of the National AIDS Quilt.

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