December 2, 2004

AIDS Quilt Displayed at Straight

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Cornell hosted parts of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of World AIDS Day yesterday. Twenty 12-by-12 foot blocks of the quilt, each composed of eight panels, were on display in the Memorial Room of the Straight. The entire quilt consists of more than 44,000 individual panels.

Each 3-by-6 foot panel of the quilt commemorates someone who has died of AIDS. There is a Cornell panel that was made by students in the AIDS and Society class. Another panel is dedicated to Gerald J. Menotti, who worked at Gannett. The panel was put together and sewn by about 12 staff members at Gannett in 1991.

“It shows the different ways Jerry was involved in our lives; it is something to remember him by,” said Cathy Wagner, a staff member of the student loan office, who formerly worked with Menotti.

David Bell, program coordinator of the student activities office, said that specific blocks of the quilt were requested, including both famous people as well as people connected to Cornell, such as a former high school teacher of Joe Scaffido, assistant dean of students for student activities.

“The quilt provides a venue where people can give real meaning and real names to the numbers that are always being thrown around,” Bell said.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 39.4 million people are living with HIV, and there have been 4.9 million new HIV infections and 3.1 million deaths due to AIDS in 2004.

Scaffido first received information about hosting a display from the NAMES Project Foundation. The idea was approved by the student union board and many organizations on campus contributed to pay the $2,624 required to ship and display the quilt. According to Bell, the custodial staff at the Straight worked for three days to set up the quilt and pipes required to hold it up.

Cornell has a history of activism and concern for HIV/AIDS. Started in 1988, Cornell AIDS Action, a former organization, created awareness on campus as well as a support community for people with HIV/AIDS or friends of people with the disease.

Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett and a member of this organization, said, “There is a sense of ‘ivy league immunity,’ that HIV/AIDS doesn’t happen to smart people or people here; it happens to other people.”

She said that it does happen here and that there are people here who are very much affected by the epidemic. Hundreds of people still come to Gannett each year to be tested.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Staff Writer