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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."

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