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July 14, 2006

ASC Executive Director Sharen I. Duke (center, right) presents to the Thai delegation about ASC's mission and history as AIDS Institute Medical Director Bruce Agins, MD (center, left) looks on.

On Tuesday, May 30, Dr. Bruce Agins, the Medical Director of the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute, brought a delegation of health officials from Thailand's Health Ministry to visit ASC and learn how community-driven AIDS service organizations operate here in the United States.

"I selected ASC to host the visit by the Thai delegation because ASC offers programs that are comprehensive, innovative and make a difference in people's lives," explains Dr. Agins. "One of ASC's strengths is its ability to adapt and implement creative programming, especially peer training. ASC responds rapidly to changes in the healthcare environment and effectively partners with other organizations to maximize service options for their clients. These models are on the cutting edge of service design and delivery."

ASC staff and peer educators greeted the Thai delegation with an agency tour and presentations on ASC's programs and history. This was followed by an informative discussion of the challenges community agencies face in trying to sustain relevant, useful services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the context of changing needs and funding challenges. "We focused on our peer education and training services as both a cost-saving and life-saving model of HIV prevention education that is replicable across high-need communities," explains ASC Executive Director/CEO Sharen Duke.

Upon departing, the Thai delegation made a moving presentation of pewter goblets of fire to ASC as a token of thanks for hosting the visit. "The information we learned is very useful," remarked delegation member Dr. Sombat Thanprasertsuk. "ASC has provided an excellent service to the community. Participation from their clients is remarkable. Management is efficient and effective. We hope we will be able to visit again, or host ASC's staff sometime in the future."

"With ASC's focus on local service delivery in a city that leads the nation in new HIV/AIDS cases, information exchanges of this sort are vital to maintaining a global perspective," observes Sharen Duke. "Our visit from the Thai delegation was a vivid reminder that when it comes to fighting the worldwide pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we're all in this together."

July 14, 2006

At the upcoming reading, ASC poets will read from ASC's literary magazine, Situations. Pictured here is ASC poet Ruth Bryant, sharing her work at a Barnes & Noble-sponsored literary event that took place earlier this year.

On Thursday, July 27, in collaboration with Barnes & Noble Booksellers/Astor Place, ASC will present a summertime poetry reading featuring participants from our Creative Writing Workshop, with a reading by guest poet Edwin Torres, author of The All-Union Day of the Shock Worker. This not-to-be-missed literary event starts promptly at 7:00 p.m. and ends at eight. The reading, which is free of charge, will take place on the second floor of Barnes & Noble/Astor Place, 4 Astor Place (between Lafayette Avenue and Broadway, just south of East 8th Street).

The poetry reading kicks off a special four-day bookfair. From July 27 to July 30, anyone presenting a bookfair voucher when making a purchase from the Barnes & Noble/Astor Place store can earmark a portion of the proceeds as a donation to ASC.

Click here to open and print your official ASC bookfair vouchers (PDF format, Adobe Acrobat Reader required). Print as many as you please and invite all your book-loving friends and family to participate. Eligible items for the donation program include books, music, magazines, and café gift items. Remember to bring your vouchers to the bookfair—ASC will not receive a portion of the proceeds from your purchase unless you have your voucher with you.

Our thanks to Barnes & Noble Booksellers for its continued partnership with ASC and its ongoing support of New Yorkers living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

July 14, 2006

Burlesque sensation Dirty Martini warms up the crowd at ASC's Safer Sex In The City 2006

We did it again! ASC's second annual Safer Sex In The City fundraiser was a fabulous fun-filled affair that raised more than $50,000 to support ASC's core services.

On June 14, 300 partygoers converged on the Museum of Sex to enjoy an evening of eclectic pleasures—unforgettable performances by burlesque sensation Dirty Martini and World Famous *BOB*; safer sex "demonstrations" showcasing ASC's work in HIV risk reduction; dancing to a riveting, non-stop soundtrack provided by prominent New York City DJs Jackie Christie and Jon Mallow; a silent auction; raffle; and viewing of provocative exhibits at the Museum of Sex.

If you regret not being there to bid on an erotic gift basket at the silent auction, or if you're sad you missed World Famous *BOB*'s "Mae Western" routine and Dirty Martini's sultry feather dance, don't despair—there's always Safer Sex In The City 2007!

"Safer Sex In The City is an incredible combination of good times, good will, and a great cause," explains ASC board member LeLan Martin, "We never lose sight of why we're here—to raise awareness and resources for people affected by HIV/AIDS. That's the very serious mission behind the very serious fun."

Safer Sex In The City 2006 was a stellar success in large part because of ASC's many loyal supporters. Our thanks goes out to our premier sponsor, the New York Chapter of Cable Positive, whose leadership and support continues to move and inspire us all.

Thanks to our media sponsors—HX Magazine, Next Magazine, New York Blade, and New York Press—for helping us spread the word. And thanks to our generous corporate sponsors, Brown-Forman, Cline Davis & Mann, Cutler Industries, Impact Technology Solutions, New York Presbyterian Select Health, and Brantley Orrell & Sal Catalano. For a complete list of Safer Sex In The City sponsors, in-kind donors, and Community Partners, click here.

Photo Credit: Joel Roselin

July 14, 2006

"I joined ASC in 1997, as the Director of Prevention Services. During my second interview for the job—a group interview with ASC's staff—one staff member asked me, 'What would you say to convince a woman who refused to use condoms to start practicing safer sex?' None of my responses satisfied the staff member and she kept insisting that I revisit the question. Finally, I said, ‘O.K., I'll tell you what I'd say to that woman. I'd tell her that my husband died from the virus and that the only reason I didn't get infected was that I used condoms.'

"That's my story. It's important for people to know that many of us in the HIV field have deep personal experience with the epidemic. But I had a passion for AIDS work long before I knew it was in my home. At Gouverneur Hospital, where I used to work, I ran the HIV support group and counseled people about HIV for eight years before I found out about my husband. In doing that job, I wanted to practice what I preached, so I protected myself.

"My life's mission is to encourage people to protect themselves and practice safer sex. And if they're already infected, my mission is to encourage them to get the medical care and other services they need. That's why I love ASC so much. I really do believe in what this agency does.

"I'd like to tell you a story about ASC. For three years, we had a homeless man who came to ASC every morning to get coffee and a muffin in our waiting area. We'd offer him services, and he'd always refuse. Like many homeless people who have had bad experiences with authority figures, he was very wary about accepting services. But one day, after three years, he decided to access ASC's case management services. Our case managers got him housing, helped him reunite with his family, and connected him with ASC's many services. The idea at ASC is that when you're ready, we're there for you.

"My responsibilities at ASC have grown over the past nine years. Since 2001, I've served as ASC's Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer. My responsibility is to ensure the effective management of ASC's programs and facilities. I also serve as the Staff Liaison to ASC's Community Advisory Council, and I run one of ASC's Peer Educator support groups. In my ‘other life,' I'm the pastor at Trinity Pentecostal House of Prayer in East New York, an impoverished community where HIV is prevalent.

"I love to see people at ASC grow and develop. Once they walk though our doors, a change happens. They join the ASC family, where somebody believes in them and encourages them, even in their disarray—until they begin to believe in themselves. And when they do, they're the most powerful examples out there. It's not easy, but it's something we do very well at ASC. The fact that 22% of our staff are former clients is phenomenal proof that at ASC we practice what we preach."

July 14, 2006

"Mental health counseling helps me stay clean and maintain my health as a person living with HIV. The counseling is part of my foundation."—ASC client

Since 2003, ASC has offered onsite mental health services in collaboration with Gouverneur Hospital. Staffed by a licensed psychologist and a licensed clinical social worker, the Gouverneur Counseling and Support Team operates onsite at ASC, offering full-spectrum mental health services: individual counseling and psychotherapy; group, couples, and family counseling; home visits for severely ill clients; treatment adherence counseling; and coordination of care. In 2005, these services reached 163 men and women—most of whom are homeless, mentally ill, chemically addicted individuals.

Why are these services so essential? "Without mental health care, our patients fall right out of primary care, out of housing, out of every type of service that could help them survive," explains Dr. Genata Carol, who oversees the mental health services at ASC. "Nearly 100% of our patients have histories of trauma, neglect, sexual abuse, violence, chaos, instability—dire things that most people cannot conceive of."

For many, mental health services are a lifesaver. "Without this service, I would have found a way to drink myself to death. I was really that far gone," explains one client. "When I started seeing Dr. Carol, I was so depressed, I wouldn't leave the house, except for my weekly counseling appointment. She encouraged me, pulled me out of my shell. The counseling was my touchstone, my anchor. It's been a hard road, but week by week, I've stayed clean and sober."

According to mental health team member Douglas Ruest, LCSW, "For many people, an HIV diagnosis can surface as self-blame—the sense that they don't deserve to live. We work with people to process these feelings, because there is a direct correlation between how people feel about themselves and their ability to take their medications, see their doctors, and take care of themselves."

The Gouverneur mental health team serves people who cannot afford private mental health services and for whom hospital-based services are not an option. "The only way most of our clients will go to a hospital is on a stretcher," says Dr. Carol, "People with histories of incarceration or homelessness have huge problems with authority. Services have to be low-threshold, where they can get multiple needs met—clothing, a meal, help with housing, and other services—which is exactly how it works at ASC."

"ASC's partnership with Gouverneur is an excellent example of how interagency collaborations yield powerful outcomes for communities in need," says ASC Executive Director/CEO Sharen Duke. "Onsite access to multiple services through ‘one-stop-shopping' is the key to linking underserved populations with care."

In the eyes of one client, "They have everything at ASC—all the resources you need. My case manager is helping me with money management, advocating with my doctor, and moving to another apartment. She even reminds me of my appointments, since I have some HIV-related dementia. I also use the ASC Food Pantry. And the mental health counseling is helping me stick with my recovery. ASC is a blessing in my life."

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