More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV today, and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 700,000 people with AIDS have died since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980’s.
Friday is World AIDS Day and Friday night kicked off the 16th year local group, Breaking Boundaries, hosted its events in honor of it.
A big attraction inside the Elks Lodge of Idaho Falls is a quilt display, that started out much smaller than it is now, but has since grown with national recognition.
“We have the third largest display in the country of the AIDS quilt, as you can see around us. As far as the panels, there are over 50,000 panels in the United States of the AIDS quilt,” said Darren Berens, an honorary board member of Breaking Boundaries.
Making the quilts is a community effort.
“These were all made by family members, friends and communities that want to honor and remember those that have passed away from AIDS,” said Yon Scott, a Breaking Boundaries board member.
HIV/AIDS is now a treatable chronic disease, but in the 1980’s and 90’s the medications to make it manageable were not available. However, even still with the newer treatments, the Center for Disease Control calculates an increase of people contracting the disease.
“One of our major goals in Breaking Boundaries, is we help support people living in southeast Idaho that do have HIV//AIDS. Lot of people don’t realize how many people do live in Idaho with this disease, that it is manageable, but the stigma and the perception of what its like to have this disease is such that people can’t find work,” said board member Dino Lowrey.
So Breaking Boundaries fills in the gaps were a little extra help is needed.
“With medications, we help with boilers, we help with car payments, we help people live a life of dignity with AIDS,” Lowrey said.
Friday night the organization hosted its Black Tie Fundraiser Gala — where it makes 100% of its proceeds for the year.
The AIDS Quilt Dedication and Celebration will be Saturday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the Elks Lodge in Idaho Falls.
Eastern Idaho Public Health is also offering free HIV testing for the entire month of December.