Typically when one thinks of Monaco, thoughts of a luxurious lifestyle tend to come to the forefront, and possibly the last thing an individual may consider is that there would be an AIDS charity in the principality.
Fight AIDS Monaco is here to change that thinking as it is a non-profit NGO founded by H.S.H. Princess Stephanie in July 2004.
Faced with psychological, and financial distress along with isolation. S.A.S. Princess Stephanie has seen people living with HIV, in the face of discrimination that many suffer daily, and in the face of their acute, often hidden, internalized health and well-being. With that, Princess Stephanie has committed herself to and with them in this struggle for life and dignity.
As the honorable Princess Stephanie stated, “I join all those who are fighting HIV in their own lives, I encourage everyone to be screened, to protect themselves, and to thank anyone who devotes their time, their money to the mobilization of AIDS.”
Fast forward to late October 2023, when I received an email from Hervé Aeschbach, the Coordinator for Fight AIDS Monaco, whom I had met on several occasions before, the last time being at the Fight AIDS Monaco office where I was given a tour of the facilities and had shown an interest in the memorial quilts since I know how to sew.
Recalling this, Hervé asked if I would be interested in utilizing my sewing skills to help construct the memorial quilt this year. Without hesitation, I agreed, feeling honored to be asked as I had attended the charity’s unveiling of the memorial quilts in years past in Monaco on World AIDS Day. And now I had the opportunity to work alongside the other volunteers and clients to help put this tapestry of love together.
For the production of the quilt, once a week in November, we would meet at the Fight AIDS Monaco office where everyone was welcomed in an environment filled with conversations, ideas, and even laughter.
Over the years, various people have helped to assemble a quilt, so there is no exacting way to sew the patchwork of beautifully hand-painted canvases, and each is designed in tribute by those with the association for loved ones no longer with us. But as a team, we looked closely at the construction of previous memorial quilts while laying out the canvases, formulated a plan, and pinned them together so that they could be sewn with the help of everyone involved.
With that, we completed a magnificent memorial quilt by the end of the month, ready to unveil with the others. The lesson from this process, it certainly does take a village.
On December 1st, World AIDS Day, this public event put together by Fight AIDS Monaco took place in the early afternoon at the Musée Océanographique de Monaco. In attendance were H.S.H. Princess Stephanie with two of her children, Louis Ducruet and Camille Gottlieb, along with the Government Councillor, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, the National Councillor, representing the President, representatives of associations, members of the Board of Directors, permanent staff, volunteers and affiliates of Fight Aids Monaco, the Prince’s Carabinieri Company, and the Monaco Fire Brigade.
Hervé Aeschbach from Fight AIDS Monaco in his opening speech welcomed everyone and spoke more about the important work of the charity and what we must do to keep moving forward, followed by a heartfelt speech given by a longtime volunteer, then everyone in attendance was directed to help unveil each memorial quilt individually as the names of those who are no longer with us were read out.
10 quilts in total were displayed at the Oceanographic Museum in memory of those who died as a result of AIDS, and the latest work pays tribute to the 5 affiliates who died in 2022 and 2023. The creation of a quilt requires 170 hours of work, representing a total of 2,330 hours since the start of this work of remembrance.
From previous experiences, this event is reflective in memory of those who have passed due to HIV/AIDS complications, yet also filled with compassion and love as a supportive community along with the strength and hope that we must do all we can to bring more awareness and raise funds with the hope to eradicate this disease that can affect anyone. And this year, World AIDS Day felt no different.
The Fight AIDS Monaco non-profit organization works with board members, a small but important team of employees, and many volunteers, all of whom share their time, along with Princess Stephanie to help put the word out about AIDS awareness, and prevention and to raise funds for the charity through various events in and around Monaco annually.
Fight AIDS Monaco is funded by a grant from the Government of Monaco but mainly from private donations. You may make a donation here.
Lead image by Frédéric Nebinger & Michel Dagnino; photos of quilts courtesy Jameson Farn; all other photos as credited