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September 8, 2006

At the Barnes & Noble/Astor Place reading, ASC?s powerhouse poets are joined by guest reader Edwin Torres (back row, far left), ASC Deputy Executive Director Brenda Starks-Ross (front row, center), and Barnes and Noble staffer Carolyn Hughs (front row, far right).

With verse exploring life with HIV/AIDS, recovery from substance abuse, and many other issues, ten poets from ASC's acclaimed Creative Writing Workshop wowed an appreciative audience at the Barnes & Noble/Astor Place Summertime Poetry Reading in July. The poets read from the latest issue of ASC's literary magazine, Situations.

"It was an exhilarating reading," says ASC's Deputy Director Brenda Starks-Ross, who MC'd the event. "Every emotion expressed in the poems was intensely felt by the audience and the therapeutic power of poetry was there for all to see."

Guest poet Edwin Torres, author of several poetry collections, opened the event. Throughout the four-day Bookfair, ASC outreach staff were present at the Astor Place store to raise awareness of ASC's services. The agency was also the recipient of a generous portion of the proceeds from book sales at the store.

September 8, 2006

From September 11 to 15, ASC will host its annual "Recovery Week," a special event highlighting issues concerning recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Recovery Week is funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Topics to be covered in workshops and panel discussions include recovery and the family, loss and addiction, aging and recovery, recovery and spirituality, substance abuse and treatment modalities, and how to manage the use of pain and HIV medications in the context of recovery. Recovery Week will also feature "sober socialization" activities.

Peer Educators from ASC's recovery support program, HIGH On Recovery (How I Got Help) will facilitate many of the ASC's Recovery Week activities. According to HIGH On Recovery Liaison Rufino Colón, "Recovery Week is an important way to share many different options, tools, and strategies for recovery, so participants can find their own solutions. The more informed people are, the better their chances of maintaining recovery."

For more information, please contact Lurenda Cray, Senior Program Coordinator, at 212-645-0875, extension 344 or at Lurenda@ascnyc.org.

September 8, 2006

Starting on September 19, ASC is offering a new cycle of its Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP), an intensive, 10-week training for men and women who are affected by HIV/AIDS and in recovery from drug or alcohol use.

PREP participants learn how to educate at-risk communities with culturally relevant information on HIV risk reduction and health promotion. The program empowers participants to sustain long-term recovery while developing a marketable set of skills. After completing PREP, participants become ASC Peer Interns, assisting with community outreach, educational presentations, translation, and many other activities.

For more information about the upcoming PREP training cycle, or to receive an application to attend the training, please contact Lurenda Cray, Senior Program Coordinator, at 212-645-0875, extension 344 or at Lurenda@ascnyc.org.

September 8, 2006

I started using ASC's case management services in 2000. ASC's case management team kept a close watch on me; it was amazing how I advanced.

They counseled me, made sure my benefits were in place, and connected me with all kinds of services. They helped me stay on top of my medical care by talking to me extensively about taking care of myself and talking to my doctor. They even escorted me to my medical services—my case manager would pick me up at home and bring me to the doctor.

It was good to have that extra support from people I could relate to and trust. I participated in ASC's case management services for two-and-a-half years and stayed in medical care the whole time. I've continued seeing my doctor regularly to this day.

I also used many other ASC services, including the legal clinic, clothing room and food pantry. ASC's Creative Writing Workshop and recreational activities gave me somewhere to be and kept me from doing things I shouldn't have been doing. And always there were people at ASC I could talk with openly. There's a very large support network here.

In 2001, I participated in ASC's Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP), Harm Reduction Training, and other trainings. As an ASC Peer Educator, I did group presentations at drug treatment programs and SROs to spread the news about HIV and teach people how they could help themselves and get some control over their treatment.

In 2002, I had a brain aneurysm. So many people from ASC called me and wanted to know how I was doing and how they could help. It felt good to know there were so many people in my corner.

Today, I am an ASC Volunteer, working with ASC's Management Information System (MIS) Manager. I help maintain and update ASC's software, hardware, and wireless network. I'm very interested in computers and I'm studying to become a certified computer technician.

My experience with ASC has been so vast. ASC gave me a chance to see the difference between my true potential and what I call "the old world" of getting high, having unprotected sex, and doing things that stress body and mind. ASC gave me skills that help me cope, adapt, and remain focused on my health.

ASC is an organization of true grit.

September 8, 2006

On the Lower East Side, where nearly one in three adult residents live in poverty and HIV infection rates are alarmingly high, it's critical to encourage members of the Latino community to learn their HIV status through testing. But when traditional health messages don't work, how do you reach this population?

With this question in mind, ASC recently participated in a coalition spearheaded by the Lower East Side AIDS Strategy Group to create Latino Testing Month—community education to increase access to HIV testing among diverse Latino communities throughout the Lower East Side.

Segments of the Latino community face special barriers to accessing HIV testing, explains ASC Co-Director of Prevention Services Fulvia Alvelo. "For undocumented persons, testing raises fears of being found out and deported. It also raises concern about being unable to access medical care or services of any kind."

"Throughout Latino HIV Testing Month," adds Alvelo, "we focused on these issues in ASC's weekly Spanish-language support group, Raices. We discussed the barriers to testing—including issues that affect undocumented individuals—and we encouraged the support group members to carry these messages to their familial and social networks. We also sponsored a series of 'Bring A Friend' events where the participants invited their family members and friends to come to ASC for testing. It was a very successful effort."

Other participants in the AIDS-Institute sponsored coalition included the Latino Commission on AIDS, Betances Health Center, Henry Street Settlement, Caring Hands for Positive Women, Housing Works, Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, and the Ryan-Nena Health Center. Each organization developed its own strategy to promote HIV testing among the Lower East Side's various Latino communities. All told, the coalition reached more than 400 individuals through this month-long collaborative effort.

September 8, 2006

"Safety Counts" and "Healthy Relationships" are HIV prevention programs that ASC offers with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Participants in both programs receive meals, incentives, and Metrocards (transportation assistance).

On September 13, 14, and 15, ASC will offer Safety Counts, a group for men and women who have used drugs in the past 90 days. People who are HIV-positive, HIV-negative, and of unknown status are welcome to apply. The group teaches participants how to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and hepatitis C. It also helps participants set goals for reducing their substance use. Safety Counts includes educational workshops, social events and supportive services from ASC over a four-month period.

In October, ASC will offer Healthy Relationships, a group for HIV-positive people meeting one day a week over a five-week period. Healthy Relationships helps people develop coping skills to reduce stress in their lives. The workshop focuses on developing skills in problem-solving, decision-making, negotiating choices, and dealing with HIV disclosure.

Pre-registration is required for Healthy Relationships and Safety Counts. For more information, contact ASC's Training Coordinator Guy Williams at 212-645-0875, extension 348 or at Guy@ascnyc.org.

September 8, 2006

An ASC Case Manager (at right) works with a client to develop an action plan that prioritizes service needs.

"I was very ill, with only 15 T-cells and Hodgkin's lymphoma. I'd been drug-free for six months and was struggling with recovery. ASC's case management team supported my recovery, helped me get my own apartment, and connected me with ASC's counseling services, support groups, harm reduction services, and food pantry. Today, I have over 500 T-cells, my HIV is undetectable, and my lymphoma is in remission. Coming to ASC turned my life around."

—Nate, ASC case management client

With the advent of better treatments, connecting HIV-positive people with medical care and helping them stay in care has become a primary goal in the HIV field. But achieving this is easier said than done.

Enter case management—a deceptively bland term for one of the most dynamic, life-enhancing services available for people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Case management is the glue that connects people to services and keeps them engaged in care," explains Assistant Director of Client Services Jonathan Reade. "Clients come to us distraught, upset, and unwell. They are often unable to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access services—the paperwork alone can overwhelm them. We facilitate this process."

Dr. Peter Gordon, Medical Director for New York Presbyterian System Select Health, an HIV Special Needs Plan (SNP), concurs. "ASC has been instrumental in helping my patients navigate a complicated care system with a thoughtful advocate on their side. My appreciation for these services comes primarily from working with ASC's COBRA case management program—exceptional care coordination for populations challenged with medical, mental, financial, and substance abuse issues. The breadth and depth of case management services helps greatly with total integration in care."

Case management is a collaborative venture that supports people living with HIV while helping them move toward self-sufficiency. ASC's nine case management teams carry out numerous activities, including developing tailored service plans, identifying appropriate services, teaching clients how to navigate New York City's expansive service system, advocating to ensure access to key services and benefits, escorting clients to appointments, and following up to see that clients obtained services and achieved desired results.

This goes beyond simply making sure a person living with HIV/AIDS sees a doctor, observes Kim Atkins, ASC's Deputy Executive Director for Planning. "Did the client understand what the doctor said to them? Are they keeping up with their medical treatments? Are their lives stabilized enough to remain in care? What services do they need to maintain their health and manage their lives? By simultaneously addressing many different aspects of a person's life, case management promotes the level of stability required to make HIV medical care an attainable goal."

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