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Pediatric memorial AIDS quilt unveiled (6-23-99)

The memories of AIDS' youngest victims have been captured in thread and colorful swatches of fabric that hang on a pediatric AIDS memorial quilt at the South Texas AIDS Center for Children and Their Families, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

A blue-and-white quilt panel includes a piece of the Charlotte Hornets basketball T-shirt that AIDS victim Jennifer Baker loved, along with her Hornets hat. She was 11 years old when she died in 1996 from a disease inherited from her parents, who both died before her. There are four panels on the memorial quilt so far; each represents a San Antonio child who has died from the AIDS virus.

The first four-panel section of the quilt was completed recently and unveiled during a small, private ceremony for the families of children the center serves.

The quilt was born from an idea voiced by Terrence Doran, M.D., director of the Health Science Center's Division of Community Pediatrics, and clinical nurse Sue Alderete, who wanted to honor the children and raise community awareness regarding the severity of the epidemic in infants and children.

The quilt's panels contain favorite pictures, colors or other items from each of the children represented, along with the child's birth year and the year they died. Sewn across the middle of the quilt is a red ribbon, a symbol for the fight against AIDS, and the words "Gentle Warriors," which is what Alderete calls the little ones who "fight" the disease.

Alderete plans to have the quilt taken out into the community as an opportunity for people, who may not have direct contact with the AIDS virus, to see the personal aspects of the disease instead of just the cold, hard numbers. She hopes that taking these things into the San Antonio communities will influence young people and the choices they make.

"It sends a message. It makes some people think," Alderete said. "I want our children to be heard and maybe if it just influences one person, then we have made progress."

The quilt has been displayed during several health fairs and related events in San Antonio and was transported to Washington, D.C., for a national AIDS conference.

Eight more memorial panels, remembering additional children from the center and other facilities, will be added when funding is available.

The South Texas AIDS Center for Children and Their Families is part of the Health Science Center's Division of Community Pediatrics and provides comprehensive care for HIV-positive children, women and adolescents by offering a number of services, including medical care, counseling, access to clinical research, education and training.

Contact: Will Sansom or Heather Feldman