Since opening our doors in October 1990, AIDS Service Center NYC (ASCNYC) has made a daily practice of implementing our agency motto: helping many, one by one. In countless ways, ASCNYC has touched the lives of thousands of New Yorkers living with, affected by, and at risk for HIV/AIDS. To commemorate our 10th anniversary in 2001, we presented ASC Heroes: Faces & Voices, a compelling portrait series by the photographer Alex Tehrani featuring members of the ASCNYC family, including clients, staff, and Peer Educators. These images, which appear throughout ASCNYC's website, were accompanied by testimonials that provide an intimate sense of this unique agency – who we are, why we do what we do, and who we’re doing it for. As vivid examples of our ongoing commitment to helping many, one by one, these faces and voices say it all.
The powerful black and white photographs that appear in Heroes and throughout this website now adorn the walls of our new facilities at 41 East 11th Street. We invite you to come visit us here in our new home and see first hand the work we do.
To arrange for a tour, please contact Brooke Brailey at (212) 645-0875 ext. 303, or via email at email@example.com.
Selected Excerpts from Heroes: Faces & Voices
I wish I was a dog sometimes, dogs love unconditionally. Humans talk about loving unconditionally. Humans judge. Animals just love.
Years ago in the news, there was this story of a plane crash. A little girl was in the back of the plane. The plane crashed somewhere real cold and the cold was coming in. The girl had a little dog with her and she grabbed onto the dog trying to protect it. When they found her, she was the only one who survived. They said the girl was trying to protect the dog, but holding the dog actually saved her from freezing to death.
I got Reggie last February. He’s 11 years old, a mixed dog – and if somebody didn’t adopt him, they were going to put him to sleep. So I adopted him. I thought I was saving his life, but after being with him I realize how much he means to me. Basically, it’s the same thing with the little girl – she thought she was helping the dog, and I thought I was helping Reggie, but in essence he was helping me. I look forward to coming home to him because I know he’s going to greet me – his tail is wagging, he gets all excited, and that makes me feel good. I don’t have to act a certain way. He’s just happy that I’m home. Living with the virus and having a constant companion to take care of has made my life more vibrant.
The other thing that makes me feel good is that everybody tells me how well-behaved Reggie is. He’s a well-mannered dog, real gentle with people, children, and other dogs. He’s taught me so much about socializing. If a dog gets aggressive, Reggie just walks away – not a problem – where I, with my machismo, jump up if somebody gets aggressive. I’ve learned so many lessons watching Reggie. It’s made me a better person.
I’ll be on my way out the door to go to a meeting to take care of my recovery, and he looks like he wants to go with me and I say to him, “Sorry, Reggie, but I gotta go take care of me because if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of you.” So he motivates me in a lot of ways to go on.
We’ve lost a lot of heroes. There were a lot of role models and a lot of people that I met along the way being HIV-positive that are gone – a lot of important people who, if I didn’t have the virus, I would not have known. They left a mark and started something they didn’t finish. But there are soldiers behind those heroes, still following through.
I had a dear friend named Luis that passed. He was my hero because he had another perspective to life after he found out he was positive. He strived to the end. Every time I want to let go – because it’s been eleven years since I was diagnosed – I remember him saying again and again, “I don’t want to die.” Then there are the other heroes – those caregivers that stick by their partners and care for them, no matter what. Without them in our life, we wouldn’t be here.
A positive diagnosis is devastating but it’s really helped to have positive role models for these eleven years: my husband Ernesto, my family, my grandchildren, and my three children. It’s been important to me to set goals and to have memories to leave behind for them. Living each day to the fullest as if it was my last is still the best gift I can give myself.
Alex took my picture on Fashion Avenue. As he took the picture, I was thinking, “I could be a star!” I think this picture says I’m tough and strong. I like that because I think of myself as a strong individual.
I came to ASCNYC in July ’99. I started as a volunteer doing outreach, distributing safer sex kits in the parks, health fairs, and other places. I came here because I have something to say to the community about life and being aware of the choices that you make. It’s really important because when I was growing up, I heard bits and pieces about HIV, but I always thought, “That’s not going to happen to me. I’m too young.”
Who do I consider a hero? Me! Because I went through a lot of obstacles in life and I didn’t give up. I took several wrong paths, but then I got my life together. I consider myself a hero because I could have ended up far worse off. And I didn’t end up like that.
Besides myself, I only have one hero. You’re gonna laugh. Madonna. Because she stood by all of her convictions. I give her a lot of respect. She went through a hell of a lot to get to where she is today. I relate to that.