The entire country commemorated World AIDS Day but Palm Beach County’s main celebration was Monday at Compass.  

Compass, the LGBT community center of the Palm Beaches, displayed its annual AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit on Monday to recognize World AIDS Day. This year, more than half the quilt panels were requests from community members. 

Lorenzo Lowe, Compass’ director of the HIV prevention and education, made the World AIDS Day ceremony possible. 

"I've worked for Compass for eight years now, this happens to be my favorite event,'' Lowe said. “This ceremony is a product of members of Compass and Palm Beach County. Each year we do this ceremony, it gets better and better."

The goal of the night was to highlight those who have lost their battle to HIV/AIDS. Compass proudly unveiled this year’s panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt and celebrated medical breakthroughs over the years. 

“The quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic and remains the largest ongoing community folk art project in the world,” the official AIDS Memorial Quilt websitereads. “More than 50,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels – commemorating more than 105,000 individual lives of people who have passed away from AIDS – have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members and has transformed into one of America's national treasures.” 

"The theme for this year's display is community,” Lowe said. “More than half the quilt panels selected this year were requested by community members, in remembrance of friends and family who have died. It is our role to talk about the effect of the AIDS epidemic on our community, prevent the epidemic from continuing, and remember those we have lost."

Members of Compass took turns reading the names of the 30 individuals lost this past year from HIV/AIDS. During the solemn occasion, there were several featured speakers like Compass HIV Testing Coordinator Dylan Brooks, West Palm Beach nurse Jennifer Kuretski and HIV Program Director of The Long Term Survivors Network Chris Lacharite. 

The Long Term Survivors Network “helps to build and maintain a resilient community of long term survivors by providing social, educational and other activities that nurture connecting relationships with others and promotes life-affirming self-care,” according to their website.

After the ceremony, guests were invited to view the quilts, take photos, and share the experience with other attendees.

A number of the quilt panels will also be showcased at several locations in the area including the Flamingo Gallery in Lake Worth Beach, Lynn University in Boca Raton, The Metropolitan Community Church in Palm Beach Gardens, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach, The Department of Health on Clematis St., Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach, The Lantana branch of the PBC Library System, and Seacoast Bank on Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.

"The best part about this experience is the power of community and how we sustain each other. I have a lot of long term survivors in my parish, and their resilience depends on the support of the community,” said Reverend Marie Alford-Harkey from the Metropolitan Church of the Palm Beaches. "We have two panels at my church that I've been praying over throughout the week, but to be here to witness more in person was eye-opening."


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