In recognition of World AIDS Day, which formally took place Wednesday, Howard County residents can see panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt and attend lectures on the illness today and tomorrow at Howard Community College.
This is the first time parts of the quilt have appeared in Howard County.
The free two-day event marks the county's biggest commemoration of World AIDS Day, begun six years ago by the World Health Organization to promote education about the disease.
"In the past, efforts have been sort of scattered," said Kathy Jones, an event organizer who works in Howard Community College's Office of Continuing Education.
This year's event, sponsored by the college, the AIDS Alliance of Howard County and the county Health Department, includes the quilt display today and tomorrow, along with a professional conference and guest speakers.
Fifty panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in the Galleria on campus, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow.
The 10-acre quilt is a product of the NAMES Project Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that has stitched together panels bearing the names of more than 25,000 people who have died of AIDS.
The educational program begins today at the college with a daylong professional conference for care-givers from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The public also is invited to attend workshops on people living with HIV and AIDS, their families, loved ones and those who care for them.
"It mostly deals with the psychological effects of [people living with] HIV, their friends and families," said Lenny Green, chairman of the public education and awareness committee for AIDS Alliance of Howard County.
Tomorrow, representatives from AIDS Alliance and the Baltimore NAMES Project will speak, and a theatrical troupe called the Young Columbians will perform.
People also can watch videos about the quilt, which originated in San Francisco six years ago.
Organizers said viewing the quilt will help dramatize the impact of the epidemic that has left 55 people dead in Howard County since 1981.
Public health officials estimate that about 600 to 900 county residents are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"It's ever-growing and the only way we're going to slow it is by educating the public on how the virus is affecting the world," Mr. Green said.
Each panel is 6 feet by 3 feet. Messages, photos and keepsakes of the person who died often decorate the panel.
Earlier this year, quilting bees were held for county residents who wanted to make panels for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Those who have finished their panels can present them during the program for inclusion in the larger quilt.
"The panels are a way for people to remember the contributions that their loved ones have made," said Pat Johnston, treasurer for AIDS Alliance.
The panels also leave a deep impression on viewers, she said.
"They will have a chance to experience on a personal level the devastation that AIDS causes to individuals, families and loved ones," Ms. Johnston said.