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March 9, 2007

ASC?s powerhouse poets strike a pose at a recent reading.

Need a little inspiration? ASC has it in abundance, and we'll be sharing it with the world at our annual ASC Voices poetry reading at Barnes & Noble/Union Square. In celebration of National Poetry Month, the event will feature powerful readings by members of ASC's Creative Writing Workshop. If you haven't seen ASC's powerhouse poets in action, now's your chance! The event is free of charge. Copies of the latest issue of ASC's literary magazine, Situations will be distributed.

Join us at 33 East 17th Street (4th Floor) for this free and fabulous event, and prepare to be inspired!

March 9, 2007

"Safety Counts" members join with ASC Training Coordinator Guy Williams (far right) and Safety Counts Peer Educator Lee S. (seated, second from right) to celebrate their risk reduction efforts.

To promote healthy behavior choices among the at-risk populations we serve, ASC has teamed up with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on an exciting partnership called "Safety Counts." This empowerment-based HIV prevention program helps active drug users (and those in very early recovery) take practical steps to reduce their chances of becoming infected with HIV or spreading the virus.

Through group and individual counseling sessions, social events, and personal follow-up, Safety Counts helps develop skills to reduce risk, resolve problems, and learn how to socialize in drug-free settings. The program is part of ASC's suite of services for clients working to confront substance use and high-risk sexual behaviors.

"Safety Counts is one of many stops along ASC's continuum of harm and risk reduction services," explains Ramona Cummings, ASC's Co-Director of Prevention Services. "Whether you're using drugs indiscriminately or working hard to maintain your recovery, ASC has a tailored service to help lower your risk. In Safety Counts, our staff and Peer Educators help participants work toward individualized risk reduction goals of their own choosing. The program keeps risk reduction in the forefront of people's minds and helps them get past the barriers to behavior change."

According to Guy Williams, who oversees Safety Counts at ASC, the program works. "A recent participant had a simple goal of managing his drug use," says Williams. "He didn't want to quit, just control his consumption. But through Safety Counts, he began to feel his drug use was a problem. He upped his goal from ‘managing' his drug use to entering detox, and he's been clean ever since."

"There's a direct relationship between having positive connections in one's life and reducing one's risk," adds Williams. "ASC and Safety Counts provide those connections." For participants, success comes through perseverance: the program requires consistent involvement over a four-month period. That's a big commitment for someone actively using drugs or in early recovery.

To make the program fit the reality of participants' lives, ASC "sandwiches" the Safety Counts intervention between our Harm Reduction Training (available before Safety Counts) and our harm reduction support group (provided after Safety Counts). We also provide a spectrum of services that support recovery and wellness every step of the way—from HIV counseling and testing to food pantry services to onsite mental health counseling.

Safety Counts is one of several "evidence-based" programs the CDC funds to promote healthy behavior choices among populations disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. By integrating these evidence-based interventions into comprehensive, wraparound services—like our successful, "home-grown" peer education programs—ASC gives clients the tools they need to take the next step toward rebuilding their lives and reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS.

March 9, 2007

ASC's third annual "Safer Sex In The City" fundraiser is coming in June—and this year will be hotter than ever! Join us for a delightful evening of music, entertainment, and free admission to "Kink," the erotic new exhibition at the Museum of Sex. To purchase tickets, become a sponsor, or learn more, call (212) 645-0875 ext. 360, or visit www.safersexinthecity.org.

March 9, 2007

What does "helping many, one by one" really mean at ASC? How does ASC help people change their lives for the better? Find out at the upcoming graduation ceremony for ASC's current Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP) cycle. The ceremony is the culmination of ASC's intensive training program to help men and women affected by HIV/AIDS and in recovery from drug or alcohol use to reach their full potential.

Moving testimonials from current PREP graduates and a keynote address by a past PREP graduate are highlights of this event. You'll also hear from ASC's executive staff and Board, enjoy refreshments, and meet the graduates. For more information, contact ASC's Planning Department at 212-645-0875 x 303, or email jack@ascnyc.org.

March 9, 2007

I love what I do here at ASC. When I see the people in our program really get what we're talking about, that motivates me. When I see clients who were once sitting in ASC's waiting area all day go through ASC's three-day harm reduction training, then Safety Counts, then our Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP), and finally, our peer-run HIGH On Recovery Program, I feel good about our work. Our clients come in off the streets and ASC helps them change their lives.

I first came to ASC in 2000 as a Training Coordinator for PREP, ASC's 8-week core peer skills development training. Last year, I became the Coordinator of ASC's HIGH On Recovery Program (HIGH stands for How I Got Help). Through trainings, support groups, social events, and acupuncture-detox, HIGH On Recovery helps people stay on track with their recovery from substance abuse. Peer Educators who are in recovery lead the program, so it's a very participatory service model.

Most of our members are in early recovery. Some have used drugs since they were ten years old and kept on using for 40 years. They stopped growing at the age of ten—emotionally, spiritually, socially. They stopped living life as other people do. Now, they've quit drugs, they're back in the world, and they don't know what to do. They have to learn how to get along, how to keep a schedule, how to handle their relationships. We help with all that in many different ways.

Since all kinds of feelings come up in early recovery, we offer small, intimate, specialized support groups. The groups give participants a place to share their feelings, which in turn helps them cope. We offer an alternative for people who don't feel comfortable with Narcotics Anonymous or the 12-step model. We also provide our members with other services they need to get their lives back on track, like HIV testing, the clothing bank, the food pantry, mental health counseling, and the medical van.

Like all ASC Peer Educators, HIGH On Recovery members set personal development goals and then work on reaching those goals. If someone's goal is to learn how to type, we provide classes in our Cyber Lab. Some people want their GED, others want to work, so we help them take the steps to achieve these goals. Our members often come to us with very low self-esteem. But they've got a lot of street skills and we help them transform those skills into something positive.

March 9, 2007

The recent TA site visit offered a great opportunity for ASC to share its success stories in helping people overcome addiction. Pictured here are visitors from Kentucky, Michigan and Washington, D.C. with ASC's senior management and HIGH On Recovery Peer Leaders.

We're proud to note that ASC is often tapped by our government funders to serve as a model for other agencies that provide HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention and services, nationwide and around the world.

At the invitation of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), which funds ASC's HIGH On Recovery Program, we recently hosted a technical-assistance site visit for other recovery community support programs around the country.

As the site visit demonstrated, ASC's HIGH On Recovery Program (HIGH stands for How I Got Help) has set the standard for innovative recovery-oriented services led by men and women in recovery from substance abuse. As a leader in developing culturally sensitive recovery support and relapse prevention services, we were delighted to have our program recognized by SAMHSA.

During the two-day site visit in February, we warmly welcomed visitors from Heartland Cares (Kentucky), Detroit Recovery Project (Michigan), and Health Systems Research, Inc. (Washington, D.C.) who came to study ASC's "recipe for success" in helping people overcome addiction and reclaim their lives. Our guests observed leadership trainings and recovery support groups, and met some of the many people HIGH On Recovery has helped.

March 9, 2007

On Valentine's Day, the NYC Department of Health unleashed a new "secret weapon" in the fight against HIV/AIDS: the nation's first official city condom. During the morning rush hour, volunteers from ASC and other community organizations handed out more than 150,000 NYC Condoms across the five boroughs.

"Given ASC's long tradition of condom distribution, we were proud to join this impressive citywide effort to debut the NYC Condom," says ASC Executive Director/CEO Sharen Duke. "Condoms are a vital part of HIV and STD prevention. It's great that our city is leading the nation with the first-ever official city condom. ASC has distributed tens of thousands of condoms in at-risk communities over the years. The handsomely packaged NYC Condom gives us a valuable new tool in helping sexually active New Yorkers to reduce their risk of HIV infection."

March 9, 2007

ASC Trainer Mondo Blue describes the epidemic's powerful impact on communities of color during one of ASC's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day workshops.

February 7, 2007 marked the seventh year of Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a nationwide event to promote awareness and support for HIV prevention, care, and treatment among African Americans.

ASC observed the occasion with workshops and guest speakers. ASC also provided free HIV counseling, testing, and referral services in collaboration with Project WAVE, a state-funded program that promotes community-level HIV testing to help people learn their status and connect to care.

The statistics are grim: Blacks comprise more than half of New York City's new HIV cases, and among newly diagnosed New Yorkers, Blacks are the least likely to begin treatment within three months. Black New Yorkers are also 2.5 more likely to die from HIV-related causes than their White counterparts.

"Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is one of many ways ASC spreads the messages of HIV prevention, testing, and treatment into communities at risk," says Ramona Cummings, ASC's Co-Director of Prevention Services. "We need to send constant reminders that HIV is real and that people are still getting infected. ASC's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day activities keep this issue on the agenda and reinforce important messages about HIV risk, transmission, testing, treatment, and the tremendous impact of this epidemic on communities of color."

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