Aids Memorial Quilt

Panels of the Aids Memorial Quilt on display at the National Mall, Washington D.C., USA, July 2012. Panels of the Aids Memorial Quilt on display at the National Mall, Washington D.C., USA, July 2012.

The Aids Memorial Quilt is a long-term project to make a vast commemorative quilt for Americans who died of HIV/aids. The Project was launched in 1987 by gay rights activists in San Francisco, California, when the disease’s stigma resulted in some American funeral parlours refusing to accept the bodies of aids victims.

Similar quilt projects have since appeared in forty other countries. The quilt is currently (2015) cared for by the NAMES Project Foundation, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The quilt is made of squares or blocks measuring 90 x 180 cm. Blocks are sewn together into panels of 3.6 x 3.6 m for display, after being hemmed, repaired or reinforced. They are made from a variety of materials including cotton, lace, leather and mink. The techniques used to further decorate the blocks include embroidery, appliqué, iron-on transfers and painting. Embellishments include bowling balls, jeans, jock straps, keys, pearls, stuffed animals, T-shirts, wedding rings and other personal items. A block may bear the individual’s name and other information, such as home town, birth and death dates, a favourite quotation, as well as the names of spouses or siblings. The blocks are sewn and contributed by family, friends, co-workers and hospices. Each block, with any accompanying photograph or letter, is numbered and entered into a central database.

There are currently over 83000 names on the quilt, which weighs over 49 metric tons (54 tons US). The panels are regularly exhibited both in the US and elsewhere to educate and raise funds for community-based HIV/aids services. By 2014 the quilt had been seen by an estimated fifteen million people worldwide and raised over USD 3 million for HIV/aids charities. It has been called the largest community art project in the world. The Aids Memorial Quilt was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.


  • JONES, Cleve (2000). Stitching a Revolution, New York: HarperCollins.
  • RUSKIN, Cindy (1988). The Quilt: Stories from the NAMES Project, New York: Pocket Books.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 14 August 2020).


Last modified on Friday, 14 August 2020 18:27