Long time gay rights activist Cleve Jones conceived the concept for the
AIDS Memorial Quilt, in 1985. For the annual memorial march for Harvey
Milk, Jones planned to have marchers write the names of their loved ones
who had died of HIV/AIDS related causes onto posters, to honor their
memories and call attention to the more than 1,000 San Franciscans who
had died up to that point. The marchers carried these signs to the San
Francisco Federal Building, where they taped them to the walls, creating
an assemblage of posters that looked like a patchwork quilt. For Jones,
this sparked the idea of creating a permanent memorial for the victims
of the disease in the form of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In 1987, Cleve Jones worked with Mike Smith and volunteers to organize
the NAMES Project Foundation, an independent, international, non-profit
organization, meant to house the AIDS Memorial Quilt and its associated
archival materials. The main goals of the organization are to provide a
creative means for remembrance and healing, illustrate the enormity of
the AIDS epidemic, increase public awareness of HIV/AIDS, and raise
funds for and assist other organizations in providing community services
to those affected by AIDS.
In 2000, the NAMES Project Foundation moved its national headquarters
from San Francisco to Atlanta. This move allowed the organization to
attain greater financial stability, and to focus their efforts on the
new face of the AIDS epidemic.
After 30 years of being pieced together, the AIDS Memorial Quilt weighs
more than 54 tons, and consists of more than 49,000 panels, containing
over 96,000 names.