January 8, 2007

ASC staff, Peer Educators, clients and colleagues gather for the ceremonial unveiling of the ASC Mosaic of Life.

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On December 1, ASC joined thousands of organizations across the globe in marking World AIDS Day with events and activities to draw attention to the continuing need for a unified, potent, and compassionate response to the AIDS pandemic.

The day began with an unveiling of the ASC Mosaic of Life, which memorializes those we have lost and honors those who inspire us. The mosaic is on permanent display in ASC's waiting area. Please take a look the next time you visit.

Oliver Martin III, ASC Board Member and Executive Director of Conscious Contact of NY and Sharen Duke, ASC Executive Director/CEO, at the 20th annual World AIDS Day program at Riverside Church.

Following a community luncheon, ASC hosted a spirited poetry reading by ASC's Creative Writing Workshop. Earlier in the day, ASC's poets performed their work at the Medical and Health Research Association of New York City (MHRA), which funds several ASC programs.

ASC was also on scene at the Riverside Church World AIDS Day commemoration on Manhattan's Upper West Side. This large-scale event featured ASC Board Member Oliver Martin III (who also serves as the Executive Director of Conscious Contact of New York) and ASC Executive Director Sharen Duke who jointly delivered a speech about "Spiritual Outreach Services (S.O.S.)," ASC's new partnership with faith-based organizations to bring HIV/AIDS prevention education to communities of faith in Manhattan. The event also presented African Drumming, choral performances, a poetry reading by Chardelle Imani Lassiter, HIV testing demonstrations, and much more.

January 8, 2007

ASC PREP graduates display their certificates of completion.

"My self-esteem was shot when I came to ASC, but this agency lives up to its promise of helping many, one by one. Now I'm in college. The sky's the limit." ASC PREP graduate

In mid-November, 24 proud graduates of ASC's pioneering Peer Recovery Education Program (PREP) walked down the aisle in their caps and gowns, representing the largest graduating class in the fifteen-year history of this unique program. PREP provides skills and support that help people affected by HIV/AIDS and in recovery from substance use to reach their full potential.

A PREP graduate tells the story of how ASC's peer training program has helped her.

Throughout the ceremony, the graduates spoke movingly about the PREP experience. "I just got diagnosed with HIV," said one graduate, "I was very angry about my diagnosis and knew nothing about HIV/AIDS. Through PREP, I learned that dealing with HIV isn't about getting mad, it's about getting better."

PREP graduates will become ASC Peer Interns, gaining on-the-job experience by co-facilitating support groups, providing HIV prevention education in drug treatment centers and public housing projects, and operating ASC's food pantry.

For many of the PREP participants, this graduation was a first. "It's a beautiful thing to stand here having completed something," said one graduate. "It's empowering and uplifting. ASC has shown me that there are better days ahead."

January 8, 2007

I found out I was HIV-positive six months ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. On June 21, I got a letter from an insurance company denying my claim for life insurance. The letter stated that according to their blood test, I was HIV-positive. I received this letter at work. I was totally shocked.

A few days later, I told my friend Max, who is a Treatment Adherence Specialist at ASC. Max told me about the different services ASC offers, including HIV counseling and testing. I decided to go to ASC and find out if what the insurance company was telling me was true.

My experience at ASC was very good. The HIV testing counselor made me feel totally comfortable about getting tested. She explained the whole procedure to me and gave me a lot of information about HIV and safer sex. She said, "We'll be here to help you out. If you need medical care, housing, a job, or any other services, we can help." ASC made the process so easy, I didn't have to worry about anything.

After we talked, I took the Rapid Test. Twenty minutes later, the test results came back preliminarily positive. That same day, the counselor went with me to St. Vincent's Hospital to get a confirmatory blood test and that test also came back positive. The whole time, the ASC counselor was so caring. She was right there with me, every step of the way.

Since then, my doctor checks on my viral load and T-cell count every three months, so if and when I need HIV medications, we'll know right away.

Getting tested was the best thing for me. I'm happier now than I was before because my perspective on life has changed. I don't take anything for granted, and I'm more educated about this disease. Today I participated for the first time in one of ASC's support groups and it was great! At first, I was skeptical about talking about my situation in front of a lot of people, but I think being in a support group will give me a place to get out my frustrations and talk about my feelings. I'm looking forward to that.

I am also encouraging my friends to get tested, because I know that if you find out your status before you get sick, you can avoid so much heartache. I tell them about ASC and recommend this agency because it's so personable and professional. Knowing ASC is there for me when I need them gives me peace of mind.

January 8, 2007

(L-R) ASC Executive Director/CEO Sharen Duke, award-winning actress Rosie Perez, and Cable Positive honoree Maura Kehoe gather at the Cable Positive World AIDS Day Award Breakfast.

ASC is delighted that our friend Maura Kehoe has been named as the 2006 recipient of the Brad Wojcoski Memorial Award.

This prestigious award recognizes the cable and telecommunications industry employee whose efforts have made a significant impact in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Maura co-founded the New York Chapter of Cable Positive five years ago and has worked diligently ever since in her capacity as co-chair of the organization.

As part of the honor, Cable Positive makes a $2,500 donation to an AIDS organization of the recipient's choosing. We're honored that Maura selected AIDS Service Center NYC to receive this special donation, and we were delighted to be on hand to help celebrate Maura's achievements when she accepted her award at the Cable Positive World AIDS Day Award Breakfast on December 1, 2006.

January 8, 2007

ASC "Santas" spread merriment and good cheer at our holiday celebration.

For men and women who struggle with HIV, addiction, homelessness, or poverty, the holidays can be a difficult and lonely time. To make the season a little brighter for the people we serve, ASC hosts warm and friendly events at Thanksgiving and during the winter holidays.

More than 250 clients and their families attended these special celebrations in 2006. During the winter holiday party, ASC distributed over 1,500 gifts, from children's toys to adult winter wear. Delicious food, great music, joyful smiles, and a spirit of caring defined these marvelous annual traditions at ASC.

Many thanks to those whose generous donations made these events so memorable: American Express, Angelwish Foundation, Cable Positive, CBS, Children's Hope Foundation, The Church of the Transfiguration , Darryl Cutler, D'Agostino Supermarket, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Bobby HaHa, P.S. 838, Sazon Perez Restaurant, Showtime, Trooper Foods, United Way, and Whole Foods Market.

January 8, 2007

Each month, ASC's CTR team provides at-risk men and women with HIV rapid testing, pre- and post-test counseling, and immediate linkages to treatment and care.

One in four HIV-positive New Yorkers have never been tested and are unaware of their status. Among those who do get tested, fully 25% first learned they were HIV-positive late in the process, many having already progressed to full-blown AIDS. To help more people learn their HIV status, ASC actively promotes its HIV counseling, testing, and referral (CTR) services, reaching out to underserved populations at risk, including substance users, immigrant populations, and the homeless. In the past year alone, the number of HIV tests ASC has performed has more than doubled.

The advent of rapid testing—yielding test results in under an hour—has helped significantly. In the past, people had to wait days or even weeks for their HIV test results. Unfortunately, many never returned to learn their status. At ASC, 100% of those testing HIV-positive are connected to specialized medical care the same day they get their test results.

But even before the results are in, a vital process called "pre-test counseling" is already underway. While awaiting the test result, ASC's trained CTR counselors meet with the client to discuss the implications of the test and help that individual begin to map a way forward, regardless of the outcome.

"Pre-test counseling is integral to the testing process," explains ASC Deputy Director of Planning Kim Atkins. "HIV testing raises such anxiety for most people that, once their results come back, they don't hear much of anything besides the words ‘you're positive' or ‘you're negative.' If they're HIV-negative, they're overcome with elation. If they're HIV-positive, they're overcome with apprehension. Those 30 or 40 minutes before the test results come back offer an incredibly useful opportunity to prepare people for their result and help them consider how to make the best use of the information, whatever their test result might be." One CTR client at ASC described her experience with pre-testing counseling as allowing her to be "emotionally prepared" for her result and "smarter about HIV."

HIV testing is a gateway to services that save lives. ASC provides information and care that help people reduce the risk of re-infection, protect their partners, adhere to their treatment regimen, and cope with the avalanche of emotional, practical, and disclosure-related issues that newly diagnosed individuals often face. For those who test negative, ASC helps them stay negative, through harm reduction programs, safer sex workshops, substance abuse counseling, and access to other health services they may need, including TB testing, substance abuse treatment, and STD screening.

ASC's CTR Coordinator Stacey Keith spells out the program's prescription for success. "Rapid testing at ASC ensures that every person tested receives his or her test result and is connected with the medical and HIV prevention services they need to stay healthy and protect others. We maintain a caring, nonjudgmental environment that supports people every step of the way."

January 8, 2007

Cable Positive's NY Chapter, a steadfast ASC supporter, presented its annual donation to ASC during the Chapter's Volunteer Gift Wrapping Night. (L-R) Steve Villano (Pres., Cable Positive National), Maura Kehoe (Co-Chair, Cable Positive NY Chapter), Michael Ditzig (Member, Cable Positive NY Chapter), Sharen I. Duke (ASC Executive Director/CEO), Suzanne Guiliani (Co-Chair, Cable Positive NY Chapter), and Brenda Starks-Ross (ASC Deputy Director).

In December, members of the New York Chapter of Cable Positive—the cable and telecommunications industry's AIDS action organization— volunteered their time and talents to help ASC wrap dozens of holiday presents for our clients and their children.

During their visit, the New York Chapter bestowed its annual gift to ASC: a generous $29,000 contribution, representing the Chapter's most successful fundraising year yet. Cable Positive's New York Chapter is a great friend to ASC, and we thank everyone involved for their continued support.

January 8, 2007

Come hear the members of ASC's Creative Writing Workshop flex their poetic muscles at Barnes & Noble Astor Place on Friday, February 16. The reading is the kick-off event for a two-day Barnes & Noble Book Fair at 4 Astor Place. Free copies of the new issue of ASC's literary magazine, Situations, will be distributed.

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