In continuation of presenting traditions of the past, the University Archives draws attention to Villanova’s AIDS Awareness Week held in the early 1990s. June as Pride Month is a celebration of the progress of LGBTQIA+ community and the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies a time of reflection of forty years ago when the world started to live through another epidemic that suffered from rampant misinformation and government inaction. Just like with COVID-19, health inequities and social injustices, stigma, fear and bigotry around HIV/AIDS fueled the spread and destruction of so many lives. AIDS remains decades on an unspoken epidemic, but is so clearly entrenched in our history and its affects reverberate through the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.
Through articles from the Villanovan, the University Archives highlights how Villanova community responded to the AIDS crisis. Villanova established an AIDS task force in the 1980s as the virus was gaining media traction. Into the late eighties, lectures and panel discussions would be sponsored by student organizations or departments on campus about the virus and transmission. Though, through perceived lack of interest and advocacy, the task force faded away by the end of the eighties. The necessity to address the crisis really emerged in the early 1990s and the task force was reorganized in 1992 (Compitiello, 1992). By the early 1990s, AIDS cases had peaked and college campus across the nation were faced with the reality of positive cases on campus (CDC, 2001).
In 1991, the University started AIDS Awareness day, which expanded into AIDS Awareness Week in 1993. Awareness Week included invited speakers, panel discussions, student performances, masses, and vigils. The main goals were,
Raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS; to offer HIV/AIDS educational programs during the week; to create an opportunity for spiritual reflection on the impact of HIV/AIDS upon the University community at the beginning of the Lenten season; to provide members of the University community with opportunities for reconciliation and for consideration of their own personal outreach in the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise money for local HIV/AIDS care advocates and provider (Lee, 1994).
Panel discussions and lectures would cover questions related to AIDS in relation to discrimination, health care, and how perception is affected by the Church and what is the Church’s response to HIV/AIDS.
One of the most longstanding traditions has been selected panels of the Names Projects AIDS Memorial Quilt on display at the Connelly Center (which continued in to the 2000s).
In 1994, Villanova started to contribute to the quilting project. Here are images from the “Have a Heart” Quilting Bee campaign in 1995. Students could help with quilting and banner making at St.Mary’s Library.
For more information on the AIDS Awareness events on campus, visit the Villanovan in the Digital Library: https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:183783