At OUTMemphis, we are celebrating STD Awareness Month with an acknowledgement of all the LGBTQ people who have transformed the ways we fight HIV and other STDs.
Every week we will be highlighting an LGBTQ person whose work in sexual health has impacted the lives of LGBTQ people nationwide.
Spotlight: Cleve Jones (1954)
Cleve Jones is an American AIDS and LGBT rights activist. His career as an activist began in San Francisco during the 1970s when he was befriended by pioneer gay-rights leader Harvey Milk. Jones worked as a student intern in Milk’s office while studying political science at San Francisco State University.
In 1985, he conceived the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which is an enormous quilt made as a memorial to celebrate the lives of 85,000 people in America who have died of AIDS-related causes. It is still considered the world’s largest piece of community folk art in America. In 1983, at the onset of the AIDS pandemic, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which has grown into one of the largest and most influential advocacy organization for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.
While in San Francisco, Jones took part in a documentary, Echoes of Yourself in the Mirror, about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, speaking during World AIDS Day in 2005. In the documentary he talks about the idea behind the AIDS Memorial Quilt, as well as the activism of San Francisco citizens in the 1970s and ’80s to help people affected by AIDS and to figure out what the disease was. The film also looks at the impact HIV/AIDS is having in communities of color, and the young.