After receiving a sizable grant this summer, the Yale AIDS Memorial Project is preparing to launch an interactive website by the end of January in an effort to expand its reach beyond campus.
The initiative, begun in 2010 by Christopher Glazek ’07, documents the lives of members of the Yale community who perished during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and aims to raise awareness about the impact of the disease in the United States. The project received a $50,000 grant in July to create a website featuring interactive profiles of the Yale graduates and affiliates who have died from AIDS. Richard Espinosa ’10, the project’s director, said he hopes the creation of the website will encourage undergraduate participation in the effort.
“It’s really important for us to be engaging current and future students of the project,” Espinosa said. “The goal is to eventually create some sort of network of localized AIDS memorials that piece by piece start to give a sense of not only the enormity of the epidemic but also the individuals that were affected.”
Espinosa said the website will help broaden the YAMP’s audience, creating a commemorative platform that can be used by other universities and institutions. Espinosa said there is an “endemic lack of knowledge” of the 1980s AIDS outbreak, which he believes can be improved through a large-scale memorial for victims of the disease. He added that he hopes the project will become self-sustainable as campus groups add profiles and cultivate interest.
While the initiative is currently focused on the Yale community, Glazek said the project is intended for a national audience.
“The limitation with a lot of AIDS memorials that already exist is that they’re not very accessible for those not acquainted with people who died,” Glazek said. “A priority of ours to make sure we’re producing editorial content that anyone can read or be interested and that the digital platform we create can be used by other schools too.”
Over the summer, YAMP published a journal with profiles of eight Yale students, faculty members and employees who perished in the AIDS epidemic. Organizers said the journal was intended to solicit interest in the project and make people aware of the impact AIDS has had on the Yale community.
Adela Pinch ’82, who reflected on the life of her classmate John Wallace ’82 in the journal, noted that universities often commemorate those who have died in large-scale tragedies and said the YAMP website could offer a modern means of remembering those who perished in the AIDS epidemic.
Another contributor to the project, Will Schwalbe ’84, said he was involved in activism as a student during the AIDS crisis, and is “thrilled” that people today are recognizing the lives lost in the epidemic.
“I hope this project both moves [people] and makes them angry. Because they should be angry at this crisis,” Schwalbe said. “AIDS was people, was classmates, was alumni.”
The Yale AIDS Memorial Project will hold its first on-campus information session on Oct. 6.