Friday is World AIDS Day in Palm Beach County

8:36 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 Local
The AIDS memorial quilt was displayed at the Compass Community Center in 2007. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Michael Moore, of Lake Worth, looks at a display of squares from the AIDS Memorial Quilt at Compass in 2014. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Alan Billings, of Boynton Beach, carries a quilt panel along with other participants in a walk to Lake Worth City Hall in recognition of World AIDS Day in 2009 after a ceremony held at Compass. (Gary Coronado / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tony Plakas, Compass Community Center CEO, said the AIDS Memorial Quilt holds a deep meaning for him.

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.”

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Volunteers and church visitors hold hands during a moment of silence for the victims of HIV/AIDS in 2008 at the Calvary United Methodist Church in Lake Worth as part of World AIDS Day. The church hosted the memorial quilt made by the friends and families of AID/HIV victims. (Brandon Kruse / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Carlos Toro (left), Michael McKeich (center) and others visit the AIDS Memorial Quilt at Compass in 2013. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)