BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Feb. 7 and to bring awareness to the issue, the National AIDS Memorial has teamed up with Southern University to share its initiative.

Milan Jackson, program manager of Project P.E.E.R at Southern University, says she lost her cousin, Christopher, to HIV/AIDS complications at a very young age. Now, she’s turning her pain into a purpose, making a quilt panel in his honor and for others.

“Just remembering him on days like this, it always touches me in a special way,” she said.

Right now, she’s stitching and sewing — hoping to make a quilt to send a message to students.

“He was such a warm and inviting spirit. Such a beautiful smile, a kind heart,” smiled Jackson.

The university met today to hopefully change the pattern for the next generation.

“It’s up to us to educate our communities that it’s still happening,” said Stephanie Laster, senior facilitator at the National AIDS Memorial. “And we use these quilt panels to make use it as a statement that these are people from your community that passed away from HIV.”

HIV/AIDS continues to be the third leading cause of death for Blacks, according to the National Library of Medicine. That number is even higher in Louisiana. Medicine to treat the virus has come a long way, but still testing is needed. Those involved want to let the students and the community know — they have options.

“There is prep for those who are not HIV positive,” said Jackson. “This PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis there. There’s also PrEP post-exposure prophylaxis. Also, there is U=U, which is undetectable to a transmittable.”

For those who need help with treatment, you can head to the Open Health Clinic, which also takes patients without insurance.