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Power of the Quilt Comes to Ottawa
Momentous display set in conjunction with Canadian AIDS Society conference

PEOPLE in Ottawa July 20-23 will have the opportunity to feel the 'Power of the Quilt' and become involved in a renewed spirit of Canadian AIDS activism.

For the first time in 10 years, the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed in its entirety.  It is composed of more than 570 individual memorial panels dedicated to people who have died of AIDS.

The display will be held in the Conference Centre at Lansdowne Park and in conjunction with the Canadian AIDS Society's People Living With HIV/AIDS Forum and Annual General Meeting in Ottawa July 18-22.

The Quilt includes the names of 1200 Canadians, and those with some Canadian connection, whose panels have been made by family members, friends or loved ones.  Eight panels are sewn together to form a single 12-foot square called a Section.  More than 70 of these Sections form the Canadian Quilt.

The NAMES Project - Canada / Le projet des NOMS - Canada manages the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt, coordinates displays of the Quilt, hosts regional panel-making workshops and maintains the national memorial in Halifax.  The nationally incorporated, registered charitable organization is recognized by the Canadian AIDS Society.

"It's an opening ... it brings people to the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and allows them to open up to them," said local Volunteer Chair John Stinson in an interview, of the Quilt display.  "As you see this beautiful patchwork of art, you realize that it's not just art - it's people ... it's not just the statistics you see in the paper - it's actual names and lives and mementoes that are there ... it's like being allowed into someone's secret diary and realizing what their life [was] like," he added.

The enormous collection of personal works to celebrate and preserve the memories of those lost - estimated to cover 18,000 square feet - often evokes an emotional reaction that has come to be known simply as 'The Power of the Quilt.'

Trained volunteers will be on hand to provide support.  Others will serve as Greeters / Counters to help with direction and traffic flow.  An information table will be set up.  Media presence will be strictly curbed.

The opening ceremony of the display will include the unfolding of the Quilt and the Reading of the NAMES (of those individuals whose panels are on display).  Dedication of new panels will occur during the the closing ceremony.

The event comes at a time when authorities are expressing extreme concern about the course of the pandemic.  Last week the United Nations issued dire predictions about mortality in Africa and just a few days ago the San Francisco Public Health Department announced that a jump in the infection rate in that city - and only among gay men - was linked to an increase in risky sexual behaviours.

Continued Mr. Stinson, "I think there's a renewed spirit of activism that's emerging in Canada about HIV and I think it started particularly in the last year as we see HAART start to fail in some people.  I think once again the gay community is that 'rounding point' and the gay community [has] said 'Wait a second!  This hasn't gone away.'

"I think in a lot of cases the Community has felt pushed aside that other populations have come to the forefront around the HIV issue.  I think there's a movement to seize that back in some ways.  So, I think it's an opportunity to get involved again and kick-start that involvement," stated the volunteer organizer.

The crisis isn't over, Mr. Stinson declared, and said the Quilt is an awareness raiser for that as well as a recognition of the people we've lost.

According to the NAMES Project - Canada, the roots of the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt began when in 1987 San Francisco gave birth to The NAMES Project, an organization to manage a collection of cloth panels which had been designed as memorials to those who had died of AIDS.  These very personal pieces had been gathered in a permanent monument called The AIDS Memorial Quilt.

In 1989, portions of that Quilt went on tour through the United States and Canada.  Several Canadian cities hosted displays, receiving hundreds of new Canadian panels.  These panels remained in Canada to form the first sections of the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt.  Along with new panels, they are regularly displayed in large and small centres throughout the country.

Canada is now one of more than 35 countries with an AIDS Memorial Quilt.  At a recent international event, Canadian panels were displayed with more than 25,000 others from all over the world.

Further information may be obtained at www.quilt.ca.