March 21, 2021 at 12:07 pm PDT | by Noah Christiansen
Quilt ceremony honoring Native Americans and Hawaiians lost to AIDS
Photo Credit: Amy Sullivan

SAN FRANCISCO – The National AIDS Memorial launched a Virtual Quilt Exhibition to raise greater awareness about rising HIV diagnosis rates in Native American and Hawaiian communities. The kick-off event was held at the National AIDS Memorial Grove which is located at the de Laveaga Dell in eastern Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Saturday.

The event also marked the annual March 20 National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), a national mobilization effort designed to encourage American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians across the United States and Territorial Areas to increase their awareness, get tested, get involved in prevention and be treated for HIV.

In many Native cultures across the United States, the four seasons are highly respected because they closely represent the cycle of life. Spring represents a time of equality and balance and is the only time of the year when day and night are at equal lengths. It is considered a time of profound change, new beginnings and birth, a celebration of life for all living things. It was for this reason that the Native community chose March 20 the first day of spring as the National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

According to the Indian Health Service, which analyzed HIV surveillance data reported to CDC by state and local health departments, from 2014 – 2018, there was an 8.2% increase in HIV diagnosis among  non-Hispanic AI/AN populations between the ages of 13-24 years, and a 13.4% increase between the ages of 35-44 years age groups, with the latter having the highest percentage increase among all age groups.

While the death rates from 2014-2018 decreased in these populations by 31.4%, the overall HIV diagnosis rate remained stable. During the same timeframe, HIV diagnoses increased 51% among the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population.

The Tree planting, dedication and observance with traditional prayer and song, was followed by ceremonial unfolding of AIDS Memorial Quilt. 


Photo Credit: Amy Sullivan

The panels honoring American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian lives lost to AIDS are featured, along with personal stories about the names on the Quilt, as part of a special virtual exhibition of the Quilt, featuring 16-Quilt blocks that can be viewed at

The event was attended by representatives from American Indian Cultural Center of San Francisco including Rodney Little Bird from Standing Rock Sioux, Kumu Hula, Kumu Hula Patrick MakuaKāne of Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu and Aunty Bird Levy and Carolyn Kauli’i from the Native Hawaiian community. John Cunningham, the Executive Director, National AIDS Memorial and Native Advocate was also present.

John Cunningham, Executive Director, National AIDS Memorial (Photo Credit: Amy Sullivan)
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