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AIDS activist returns home to West Lafayette

The creator of the largest piece of community folk art in the world returned home to West Lafayette, Thursday.

Cleve Jones spoke at Purdue for AIDS Awareness week.

Jones, who was born in West Lafayette and whose father studied at the university, created the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of a close friend who passed away from the disease.

He says events like these remind him of why it’s important to continues to push his message.

"In some strange way I think it restores my strength," he said.  "I thought that I connected with every person who was here tonight.  There were a couple hundred people here tonight, and they were there, they were listening.  I think they were moved and I am pretty confident that some will be moved to action."

The first panel was created in 1987. Since then, the quilt has memorialized more than 94,000 people who died of AIDS.

“In our country, the quilt's rate of growth has decreased dramatically, because in the United States, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand people have access to medications," Jones said.  "But, now we're beginning to make a difference even in Sub-Saharan Africa. We're able to create the support and distribution systems that are necessary.”

Jones worked for famed-gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Both were portrayed in the 2009 movie ‘MILK.’

A portion of the AIDS awareness quilt that is dedicated to those in the Purdue community is on display at the Memorial Union through Friday afternoon.