The UC Santa Barbara Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity held a quilt memorial for local AIDS victims on Nov. 28 in conjunction with Pacific Pride Foundation and Quilt Project Gold Coast. The memorial was in honor of World AIDS Day this upcoming Friday, Dec. 1.
The memorial took place in the Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room and included informational booths from Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (RCSGD), Pacific Pride Foundation, Quilt Project Gold Coast, Student Health and UCSB Counseling & Psychological Services.
Second-year history of public policy and law student and RCSGD programming assistant Nathaniel Calilung said the memorial is an important way to raise awareness about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) while paying homage to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We want to commemorate it on our campus and still recognize the amount and impact that HIV, AIDS and so many other stigmatized [sexually transmitted diseases] STDs and [sexually transmitted infections] STIs have on our communities,” Calilung said.
“The real tragedy of HIV and AIDS is not only the number. Again I want to remind ourselves that on federal and local levels, legislation and a lack of care has led to death, but most importantly, it’s like a loss of, quite literally, our ancestors and sexuality and gender,” he continued.
RCSGD displayed several quilts created by Quilt Project Gold Coast — a local nonprofit organization driven by volunteers dedicated to providing resources for HIV/AIDS relief — to honor victims at the memorial. The quilts were created by volunteers and decorated with the names of community members who lost their lives from AIDS.
“The quilts have been brought here to commemorate the lives and those who have lost their battles to HIV and AIDS in Gold Coast specifically. These are people that have been lost in Santa Barbara County, in Goleta, in I.V., in Ventura, in Camarillo. These are all 10 to 30-minute drives away. So these are people who and family we’ve lost very intimately here at UCSB,” Calilung said.
Included in the memorial was a quilt dedicated to former UCSB professor of botany, Richard E. Broder, who passed away after his battle with AIDS in 1985.
Free HIV testing kits were distributed by Pacific Pride Foundation, an advocacy group working to “create a thriving and visible LGBTQ+ community and to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS,” according to their website.
UCSB alumnus and Pacific Pride Foundation member Levin Fetzer explained the basis of their work and emphasized the importance of making HIV testing kits accessible to students who need them.
“It’s an off-campus organization that is a nonprofit focused on harm reduction and HIV awareness,” Fetzer said. “We have both self tests and mail-in that are available for students to use. We give them out for free.”
“It’s really impactful because it means that I can actually do the work that I’ve always wanted to do, but really focus on helping students where they’re at instead of reaching them off campus,” they continued.
Pacific Pride Foundation also set up a letter writing campaign to implore local senators to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS.
Calilung said the importance of the memorial expands beyond HIV/AIDS awareness as it also creates a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to celebrate their identities.
“The truth is, across our nation, we are losing LGBTQ centers like that. One of the impacts of that is not only loss of gender affirming care and sexual care, but it’s also a loss of the memory that we hold as LGBTQ people,” Calilung said. “So the whole fact is the Quilt Project Gold Coast, and the memories and the lives we commemorate would be lost without UCSB’s RCSGD, without so many of the communal spaces, which allow information to be shared, for sure.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Nov 30, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.