|Guy Williams, ASC Trainer, leading a workshop on "The Impact of HIV/AIDS at Home and Abroad."|
On February 7, 2005, ASC marked National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with workshops and panel discussions on HIV/AIDS in the African American community. The event reached more than fifty consumers and service providers.
Currently, Black adults account for the majority of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections diagnosed in the United States each year1 and in 2003, the rate of new AIDS cases for Black women was 20 times that of white women and five times greater than the infection rate for Latinas.2
As a minority organization that primarily serves people of color, ASC has long recognized the devastating impact of the epidemic on Black and Latino communities and has delivered an array of innovative, culturally appropriate interventions that engage our clients holistically with attention to each individual's unique needs. ASC's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events were no exception.
The first workshop of the day addressed "The Impact of HIV/AIDS at Home and Abroad." Co-facilitated by ASC Program Manager for Peer Services Deborah Yuelles and ASC Trainer Guy Williams, the workshop connected HIV issues here in New York City with the global pandemic as it affects people of color worldwide.
A panel discussion on " The Cultural Response to HIV/AIDS" provided religious and spiritual perspectives on the epidemic and its impact on the Black community.
The panelists—Rev. Freeman Palmer (Middle Collegiate Church), Rev. Willie Frink, Jr. (Church of Scientology of Harlem), and Rev. Gale Jones (Renewed Life Ministries)—represented churches with active AIDS ministries whose core values include a warm acceptance and embracing of their HIV-positive members.
"Religion and spirituality have an undeniable importance in Black culture," observed Ramona Cummings, ASC's Assistant Director of Prevention Services. "Yet many of our clients feel the church has distanced itself from them due to their HIV status. They feel stigmatized and isolated from their community."
The panel featured lively exchanges between audience members and panelists. Although ASC is a secular community organization, we were pleased to provide participants with information about local AIDS ministries that will receive them with open arms, should they wish to include a spiritual component in their self-care.
ASC concluded our Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day activities with a workshop on "Healing Through Music." Led by Dr. Alma Villegas of Brooklyn's Musica Against Drugs, the workshop featured a menagerie of beautiful musical instruments—conga drums, bongos, cymbals, and maracas, to name just a few—which participants were invited to play. Gathering the group in a drumming circle, Dr. Villegas guided the participants through a series of engaging exercises using music to connect to one's own body rhythms to create a sense of energy and well-being. This therapeutic workshop resonated agency-wide, ending ASC's Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day event on a note of empowerment, vitality, and hope.
1 Reuters, February 3, 2005, "Poverty Worsening HIV Among U.S. Black Women - Study" by Paul Simoa.
2The Washington Post, February 7, 2005, "U.S. HIV Cases Soaring Among Black Women: Social Factors Make Group Vulnerable" by Darryl Fears, Page A01.