ASC Executive Director Sharen I. Duke and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg meet and greet at the annual World AIDS Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion.
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"Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise." This provocative phrase—the rallying cry for World AIDS Day 2005—serves as a reminder of the many promises kept and broken throughout the quarter century that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been with us.
Today, 38 million adults and 2.3 million children are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In 2005 alone, some 4.9 million people became infected with HIV and more than 3 million people died of the disease across the globe.
On December 1, AIDS Service Center NYC joined with thousands of its sister organizations throughout the world to reflect on this staggering reality and renew our vow to "keep the promise" by vigorously promoting HIV/AIDS prevention and providing life-saving assistance to those living with the virus.
"World AIDS Day is an important annual event, even for an organization like ASC that focuses on HIV/AIDS each and every day," observes Co-director of Prevention Services Ramona Cummings. "It's the one day a year that the impact of HIV/AIDS is universally recognized. On this particular day, we make a conscious decision to acknowledge the people we have lost and say in one voice that the AIDS epidemic is far from over."
ASC's World AIDS Day event began with informational workshops in English and Spanish describing governmental funding trends and their impact on HIV services. Participants brainstormed ways to become personally involved in fighting the epidemic—from embracing risk reduction and getting tested to learn their HIV status to reaching their social networks and educating their elected representatives about the importance of HIV/AIDS funding.
Participants viewed the ASC "Quilt of Promise"—a visual arts project comprised of quilted panels created by ASC clients and Peers. Contributors to the quilt spoke eloquently about the inspiration for their panels. Some panels memorialized loved ones, while others focused on promoting prevention, education, and compassion.
After exploring the concept of "keeping the promise," participants took turns identifying a personal promise in connection with World AIDS Day. "I promise to educate my community," said one individual. Another participant vowed, "I promise not to be a victim— not to allow my secret to keep me sick." A third participant made the promise to not allow HIV to get in the way of living a full, productive life—a sentiment echoed by many of the attendees.
The day's final event was an ASC Poet's Café marking the release of the eighth issue of Situations, the literary magazine of the ASC Creative Writing Workshop. Eleven Situations contributors read their poems to a packed house of well over 50 ASC clients, Peer Educators, staff members, supporters, and friends. The reading included poems on the theme of "promises" written in honor of World AIDS Day. This inspiring event provided a fitting ending to ASC's World AIDS Day 2005, with the voices of men and women whose lives have been forever changed by HIV/AIDS telling their stories and speaking their truths.