Quilt of Life
by Anne Porter
|Stephanie Platt of The Current|
|Jill Marquard, Senior biology major, views a panel of the AIDS quilt Wednesday at the J.C. Penney Building. Wednesday was national AIDS awareness day.|
Since the AIDS quilt began in 1985, 46,000 panels have been made to remember the disease's victims. Each 3-by-8-foot panel represents someone who died from AIDS. Eight panels make a quilt block. Only 10 percent of the peoplemwho died from AIDS have been honored with panels.
On Dec. 2, Amy Schoenberger, a registered nurse in University Health Services who directs education programs, coordinated a program to commemorate National AIDS Awareness week in which D.J. Thomas spoke about the effects of AIDS. The quilt was also exhibited for students to see.
"This is reality. We are doing this because we care about [the students]. The only way we are going to fix this is to get it out in the open," Schoenberger said.
Schoenberger's father died of AIDS' complications in the early 1990's.
"I don't want you to be the one to get that phone call. Worse yet, I don't want [anyone] to be the one to make that call," Schoenberger said.
Since 1981, 16 million people have become infected with AIDS. One in every 200 college students will acquire AIDS if this current trend progresses.
Thomas has lived with AIDS for 16 years. Thomas, when he worked at UM-St. Louis, created Mirthday, EXPO, and Holiday Fest.
Thomas contracted AIDS while chaperoning a trip to Mexico. Four years and five AIDS tests after that trip, Thomas found he contracted AIDS in his first sexual encounter at the age of 27.
"I grew up in the 60's, the age of free love, free sex, and free drugs," Thomas said.
Thomas abstained from all these activities.
|Stephanie Platt of The Current|
|Joshua Miller (left), Jason Parmentier and Teresa Schmitt light luminaries at the Founder's Circle Wednesday to remember those that have been affected by AIDS.
"I couldn't believe it...me.... because [I found that I contracted AIDS] four years after I'd had sex for the first time," Thomas said.
Alcohol and marijuana may lead indirectly to an AIDS contraction.
"They are a risk because when [someone] smokes pot, when [someone] drinks, they make [them] do things [they] wouldn't do when [they] are sober," Thomas said.
Thomas has lectured all ages from sixth graders to post-graduate medical students.
AIDS spreads only through fluid-to-fluid transfer which make unprotected sex, blood transfusions, transplants, mother-to-child (through birth), and intravenous drug use the primary transmission routes.
Four means of prevention that stop someone from getting AIDS are abstinence, the use of clean drug needles, latex sexual barriers (condoms) and universal protections like latex gloves.
AIDS goes through four stages. The first step is acquiring the virus. In the second, flu-like symptoms occur, along with possible weight loss. In the third, the immune system weakens enough to bring about the complications of other conditions, such as pneumonia or lung cysts. In the fourth stage, the white blood cell count decreases to less than 20,000.
Although medicines exist to fight AIDS, there is no cure. Thomas lives by a bottle and pill box. He take 20 pills a day at different times, all with side effects. These pills are more toxic than chemotherapy.
Thomas sees a problem in that people do not understand that AIDS is still out there because they don't hear about it as much. If anyone sees the AIDS quilt, they won't forget it, or that what it represents.