The HIV crisis in Houston is reaching alarming proportions, with Blacks and Hispanics being disproportionately affected. The Houston Health Department reports that Blacks and African Americans make up 50% of all HIV/AIDS cases, and Latinos comprise 29% of all HIV/AIDS cases. Furthermore, the city ranks ninth in the nation for rates of new HIV diagnoses, with the highest burden being among younger, Black men who have sex with men.
The National AIDS Memorial Quilt is taking action to raise awareness of this crisis and break down the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS in Black and Brown communities. From May 3-7, more than 200 pieces of the National AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed at The MAG, located in downtown Houston, as a part of the Art of Black Pride: Black Like Me exhibit and May 4-5 at the Black Queer AF Music Festival. The exhibits are available in Spanish and English, free to the public, and include quilting workshops and educational forums.
“Change the Pattern pays homage to loved ones lost to AIDS while at the same time sparking action to end HIV/AIDS in Houston,” said John Cunningham, CEO of the National AIDS Memorial. “This national initiative works on a local level to shine a light on the impact the disease has had on Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ communities and educate and energize people to help end the epidemic.”
The quilt panels, many of which were made by Houston and Texas residents, honor Black and Brown lives lost to HIV and AIDS. Newly crafted quilt panels will also be displayed to introduce the importance of the quilt to a new generation while spreading awareness of how HIV affects lives across the South.
The initiative is part of the Change the Pattern campaign, a national effort to end HIV in Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ communities across the Southern U.S. The campaign, funded through a $2.4 million grant from Gilead Sciences, includes free quilt displays, quilting workshops, educational programming, and advocacy.
The disproportionate burden of HIV in the South is among Black women, Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men, and Black and Latinx transgender women. Change the Pattern aims to raise awareness of the HIV crisis and break down the barriers of racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty, and barriers to healthcare that continue to drive these disparities.
It is time for Houston to confront this crisis head-on and work towards ending the HIV epidemic in Black and Brown communities. By coming together, raising awareness, and breaking down stigmas, we can help prevent new infections and ensure that those living with HIV have the resources and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
For more information about Quilt locations, event times, and special programming, visit www.changethepattern.org.