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January 17, 2008

We're proud of ASC's presentation at the December 2007 National HIV Prevention Conference, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The talk, by ASC Training Coordinator Guy Williams and Program Manager Deborah Yuelles, gave an inside look at a pioneering collaboration between ASC's Peer Education Program and Stony Brook University. Professor Helen Lemay of the Manhattan Campus of Stony Brook University shared the stage with them.

As part of this rare cross-pollination between academia and ASC's Peer Education Program, 15 ASC Peer Educators and staff members participated in college-level courses on "AIDS and the Social History of Medicine," taught by Dr. Lemay for the past two academic years.

"There are still many misconceptions about HIV, and we were able to dispel those myths in the class. By putting real faces to the idea of HIV and HIV prevention, we made the issue more real to the other students in the class," explains Deborah Yuelles. "And the ASC Peers who took the class benefited as well. They received college credits for the course and learned how to study, do research and speak in public. Several of these ASC Peers went on to continue their education and get jobs. The course helped them build their self-esteem and take important next steps in their lives."

According to Dr. Lemay, "The purpose of the class was to bring HIV education into the college classroom. Today's college students will be the next generation's leaders and thus need a solid understanding of the realities of HIV from various perspectives— historical, social, cultural, and economic."

To broaden the dialogue further, Dr. Lemay began including high school students into the class. She focused on young people from neighborhoods with disproportionately high rates of HIV infection, including East Harlem. A natural next step was to bring in men and women at the forefront of HIV prevention, so an invitation to ASC's Peer Educators and HIV prevention staff was extended.

"It was a privilege to represent ASC at a national conference," says Guy Williams. "Our presentation included data, but also included the story of how to do a real collaboration with positive results for everyone involved."

January 17, 2008

ASC's Men's Sexuality Training workshop teaches harm- and risk-reduction techniques to men of all ages. On the agenda: sexual health, male anatomy, eroticizing safer sex, masculinity, relationships, and more. The three-day workshop welcomes men who are HIV-positive, HIV-negative and of unknown status.

The workshop will be held at ASC's program office at 41 East 11th Street (fifth floor) in Manhattan. Lunch and Metrocards will be provided. Pre-registration is required. To register or learn more, contact Guy Williams at 212-645-0875 x 348 or email guy@ascnyc.org.

January 17, 2008

I see ASC as an instrument of opportunity. Our mission of helping many, one by one is expressed in how we treat people when they walk through our doors. And like so many of ASC's clients, I am living testimony to this ideal.

I came to this country 17 years ago from the Republic of Panama, an immigrant seeking the American dream. I faced many challenges, from the language barrier to domestic violence and homelessness. Like many immigrants, I found acculturation painful.

After three years in the U.S., a domestic violence shelter referred me to one of ASC's support groups for women. A short time later, while looking for employment, I heard that ASC was looking for a receptionist. I applied for the position—and got it. I answered the phone in English and Spanish on the job, and studied English as a Second Language at Catholic Charities after work.

Beginning with that job as an ASC receptionist, ASC became an open door to opportunity for me. Every day during that time, someone here would encourage me to go back to school. I was a single mother with two children, working full time. But I saw others in similar situations resuming their education and thought, "If they can do it, I can too."

Fourteen years later, I'm sitting here as ASC's Co-Director of Prevention Services, supervising a department of 20 staff members. I've earned my Master's degree in Social Work, been named a CDC Fellow, and am completing the requirements for my New York State Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling (CASAC) certification. I intend to go on for my Ph.D.

This is what makes ASC so special. We're fiercely dedicated to our clients because many of us, at one point or another, were those clients. ASC walks us through the process to regain control of our lives, achieve stability, and return to the workforce. It's a chain reaction. Now we're on the other side of the table as Social Workers, Health Advocates, or Outreach Workers. We take our mission of helping many, one by one very seriously.

January 17, 2008

It's a wrap. In December, members of the New York Chapter of Cable Positive—the cable and telecommunications industry's AIDS action organization—volunteered time and talent to help ASC wrap dozens of holiday presents for our clients and their children. In 2007, Cable Positive's New York Chapter raised over $15,000 to support programs at ASC and other local organizations.

"As the new Co-Chair of the Chapter, I am proud to support organizations like ASC and Iris House," says Courtney Saunders, Marketing Manager at Time Warner. Chapter members donate time and resources as volunteers at agency events, by providing cable industry gifts for clients, and through fundraising efforts. We thank them for their longstanding support of ASC.

January 17, 2008

Chauncy, an ASC client, with ASC Health Advocate Bernice Cowell, following a recent visit to our Clothing Room.

"To someone coming in off the street, even a sweater can feel like a light at the end of the tunnel. ASC's Clothing Room is like a gift."— Bernice Cowell, ASC Health Advocate

As frigid temperatures take hold, our Clothing Room is providing relief to clients who lack warm clothing to get through the winter. They also come to us for suitable job-interview attire and clothes for housing interviews or other important appointments.

You can bring warmth into our clients' lives this winter. If you have gently used, clean clothing you're no longer wearing, please donate it to ASC. You can also help the people we serve by making a financial donation to ASC.

Men's clothing—including coats and jackets, pants, shirts, T-shirts, sweaters, shoes, and socks—is especially needed at the moment. Sizes X-large to XXX-large are in urgently short supply.

To donate and arrange a drop-off, please contact Jennifer Samuels at jennifer@ascnyc.org or at 212-645-0875 x 360.

January 17, 2008

ASC poets have been invited to share their creative truth-telling and piercing insights at a poetry reading at the Barnes & Noble recently opened in Tribeca. Through poetry, members of ASC's Creative Writing Workshop transform silence into communication, fear into courage, and isolation into mutual support. If you haven't seen ASC's 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 97 Warren Street (@ Greenwich Street) for this free and fabulous event, and prepare to be inspired!

January 17, 2008

 

ASC Peer Educators Denise and Claudia help to keep ASC's Clothing Room running smoothly, and invite you to donate to our Basic Needs Program today.

Nine out of ten ASC clients live in poverty. Having served low-income people for two decades, we know that it's necessary to meet a person's basic food, hygiene, and clothing needs before we can deliver effective HIV prevention and care.

With that in mind, ASC launched our Basic Needs Program in 1994. The program includes an onsite food pantry, daily hot lunch program, clothing bank, take-home hygiene kits, and home starter kits. These services provide a bridge to other ASC programs like case management, crisis intervention, housing placement assistance, HIV testing, treatment adherence support, and substance abuse counseling. Most importantly, ASC's Basic Needs Program can help pave a path towards self-sufficiency.

"Poverty and HIV are interrelated," says Fulvia Alvelo, ASC Co-Director of Prevention Services. "The people we serve are survivors, struggling to cope with HIV, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, and homelessness. Some are afraid to access services because of their immigration status."

"The problem is growing," adds Alvelo. "We're seeing more people without benefits. Shelters are overpopulated and no longer serve hot meals. Food banks and churches are overwhelmed and their resources are diminishing. They're sending people to us for food and clothing."

Every month ASC's food pantry provides up to 100 people with a three-day supply of nutritional groceries, including seasonal produce. For people in shelters or SROs who don't have cooking facilities, we provide ready-to-eat packaged or fresh foods. ASC also serves a hot, nutritious meal to our clients every day.

Our Clothing Room offers clients a change of clothes, an outfit for a job interview, sweaters for cold weather, and whatever other articles of clothing they might need. And our "survival kits" include toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, and other personal hygiene products that many people living in homeless shelters do not have access to on their own. "All of these services offer opportunities to engage clients, identify their needs and connect them with our services," explains Alvelo.

By offering help in a friendly, non-judgmental way, ASC's Basic Needs Program also builds trust among clients whose experiences with other agencies may have made them wary of utilizing services. "People come in here to get clothes, but they get much more than that," says Denise Epps, an ASC Peer Educator who helps to run the Clothing Room. "Our attitude is friendly, so people open up to us about their problems. They can talk openly about homelessness, the need for substance abuse services, or whatever's on their minds. Once we find them the right clothes, we connect them to ASC's case managers who help them with their other needs."

Claudia Rich, another ASC Peer who helps out in the Clothing Room, agrees. "Our job is not just to help clients find clothes, but to make them comfortable and give them some positive input," she says. People come to us in hard times, when their self-esteem is down. We respect them as individuals and give them the help they need."

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