- Kevin D. Thompson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday is the 29th World AIDS Day, an event designed to fight the disease and to remember those who died from it.
“World AIDS Day is an excellent opportunity for everyone to recognize that HIV/AIDS exists in our community and to help our community achieve zero new infections and to improve that quality of life for those infected,” Alina Alonso, head of the Health Department for Palm Beach County, said in a statement.
Alonso said there are more than 8,000 people in the county living with the disease. That’s among an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 1.8 million new infections each year.
Compass Community Center in Lake Worth plans to observe the day until Dec. 12 with the largest piece of folk art in the world — the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
The piece of art has nearly 100,000 panels representing victims of HIV/AIDS. Each panel was designed and created by loved ones of a person who died from the disease.
World AIDS Day was founded in 1988 to help unite the world in the fight against the disease. It was the first ever global health day.
The quilt has deep meaning for Tony Plakas, Compass’ CEO.
“For me, the quilt reminds me of my roots and how I came to this work 20 years ago,” he said. “I worked for the Centers for Disease Control when the entire quilt was shown on the Capitol Mall in 1996 and the experience cemented my desire to battle HIV/AIDS at the community level.”
Plakas said the quilt displays a powerful and compelling anchor to Compass’ history in Lake Worth as an LGBTQ community; the battles they’ve fought, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and the opportunities the group has as leaders to provide education for youth and colleagues serving other communities impacted by HIV.
Compass’ opening night event will include an interfaith ceremony and a performance by Voices of Pride Gay Men’s Chorus of the Palm Beaches.