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March 20, 2009

Dr. Monica Sweeney, Asst. Commissioner, NYC Health Department and John Ferguson
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The Wall Street crisis is affecting all of us. Supporters of AIDS programs have less or nothing to give in spite of the fact that HIV infection rates are climbing in NYC at three times the national average. During this time of dramatic government cuts, it's a sign of hope—and a mark of pride—that ASC keeps drawing positive attention from city, state, and federal officials who have toured our offices.

To learn more about our peer education and HIV testing programs, NYC Health Department Assistant Commissioner Dr. Monica Sweeney visited ASC in January. "ASC is a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS," Dr. Sweeney said. "The organization helps people to know their status, builds community connections, and inspires New Yorkers to become leaders in the fight against AIDS by getting tested for HIV."

Even in a funding crunch, ASC's programs produce powerful results. At ASC, we have people living with HIV/AIDS receiving job skills training, leaving welfare and rejoining the workforce. We have ex-offenders and ex-addicts writing poetry; and we have women, survivors of childhood trauma and domestic violence, surviving, thriving and helping others.

"ASC's partnerships with medical providers, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs preserve resources and expand services," said Humberto Cruz, Director of the NYS AIDS Institute, a funder of ASC programs since we opened our doors 18 years ago.

From the Federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, ASC also hosted behavioral scientist Dr. Jonny Andia and project officer Stan Phillip, who came to learn about our peer education services. And the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti is sponsoring a peer educator to attend ASC's Peer Training Program to bring lessons about HIV prevention and treatment adherence back home.

Behind these visits is a bigger story. ASC is gaining wider recognition for smart, strategic models of care that succeed through tough times. In 2008, through paid internships, ASC Peer Educators provided community outreach, prevention education, and escorts to HIV testing and doctor appointments for over 4,000 New York City residents. Services provided by ASC Peers equal that provided by 15 full-time staff, resulting in a cost savings of half a million dollars per year.

It's been really busy at ASC these past few months," says Sharen Duke, ASC Executive Director. "I couldn't be more proud of our staff, our Peers, and our community impact. ASC is doing our part to extend our community reach through peer education and partnerships with medical facilities so that New Yorkers can get the care and treatment they need. Our success is a direct result of government funders supporting us and standing with us to meet the challenges head on."

Photo: David Nager/ASCNYC

March 20, 2009

Nightclub Diva Flotilla DeBarge

Become a part of the summer's sexiest fundraiser, Safer Sex in the City. Broadway performer and nightclub Diva Flotilla DeBarge will be this year's smokin' Safer Sex in the City co-host and performer. You're in for some smoldering surprises with special guests at this year's party at DUVET, Manhattan's most seductive nightclub. Have a great time while helping to make life better for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. For sponsorship, silent-auction donations, or tickets, contact Brooke Brailey at 212-675-0875, x303 or brooke@ascnyc.org.

March 20, 2009

I was diagnosed in 1987. I lived for 13 years as a couch potato in Staten Island. In 2000, I got tired of not doing anything meaningful. It was like an ongoing sabbatical to nowhere. My old thinking didn't give me any points of reference. I wanted to make my mark on the world. Become a productive member of society.

Someone told me about ASC's Peer program and outreach. I came here and did the PREP training. My commute was two-and-a-half hours each way from Staten Island by bus, boat, and train (if you miss that ferry, you lose half an hour). I had perfect attendance, three times a week over eight weeks.

The Peer Program got me highly motivated. I'm a people person, engage them easily. I had limited experience with some agencies, but found the atmosphere at ASC warm, friendly, nurturing. I enjoyed the people who worked here. They saw stuff in me I didn't see.

I started as a Peer Educator helping people who'd been in recovery but were in danger of using. I know about having no direction--the old thinking comes back. To direct people, you can't just say, "You have to do this and that." You have to encourage them, give them an opportunity. You have to accept people for who they are, where they are.

I was a Peer for 4 years, and then I got a job at ASC as an HIV Counselor, doing harm reduction, outreach and testing. It's great to be able to get up and say "I'm looking forward to the opportunities and challenges of my job." The best thing is that it doesn't even feel like a job.

I work out of ASC's East Harlem facility. The focus is on testing. The people we see are a complete mix. You have naïve, sexually active adolescents who don't believe it's their issue. You see senior citizens who feel the same way, for different reasons. I want to help people and make them realize, "Maybe this is good for me." Testing is a win-win. In either case, if you're positive or negative, ASC is here to help.

It's been so gratifying that our work is catching on. People feel a connection with the office, like we're part of the community. People come here to talk about their issues. ASC's approach is open-door. I stand in front of my office to reach people. I say "Good morning" or "Hello" or "How are you doing". It's about visibility. My challenge is to make HIV a community issue, to give people the information, and to empower them to pass it on.

Photo: David Nager/ASCNYC

March 20, 2009

It's an exciting recognition of their powerful work. ASC poets have been invited to read their original compositions at Barnes & Noble's Union Square location in honor of National Poetry Month. Join the women and men of ASC's Creative Writing Workshop for an evening of inspiration, emotion, and courage. Location: 33 East 17th Street, 4th Floor. You'll receive a complimentary new issue of Situations, ASC's acclaimed literary magazine.

Photo: David Nager/ASCNYC

March 20, 2009

Diane Williams, ASC Trainer

The statistics are grim:

Blacks comprise more than half of New York City's new HIV cases. Among newly diagnosed New Yorkers, Blacks are the least likely to begin treatment within three months. Black New Yorkers are also 2.5 times more likely to die from HIV-related causes.

With that in mind, ASC joined thousands of sister organizations across the U.S. to mark this year's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 6. The urgent, poignant theme: "Black Life is Worth Saving".

The day began with moving testimonials from Peer Educators, ministers and providers about the importance of overcoming stigma, fighting hopelessness, and building community. "HIV is real, and 20 years into this epidemic, Black people are still getting infected. It's up to us to put this issue on the top of the prevention agenda nationally because our lives are worth saving," says Diane Williams, ASC's Training Coordinator.

ASC's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day activities included free HIV testing, exercise and nutrition classes, and a community lunch. "Each one reach one and teach one," is how Diane Williams forcefully puts it. "It's up to us to get the word out that prevention, testing, and treatment can save lives—our lives."

Photo: David Nager/ASCNYC

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