AIN Takes Over Main Street on World AIDS Day
On Saturday, Dec. 1, AIDS Interfaith Network, along with more than 30 partners and sponsors, will present World AIDS Day Dallas from 3-6 p.m. at Main Street Garden, 1900 Main Street, in downtown Dallas. The Dallas event will feature community leaders and AIDS activist speakers, musicians and entertainers, a Healthy Living Expo, six panels from the AIDS Memorial quilt, free AIDS testing and more. It will coincide with events being held globally on World AIDS Day, which has been observed every Dec. 1 since its inception in 1988.
"This is an opportunity to look back and remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDS but also an opportunity to look forward, not only in Dallas but also globally to focus on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment," said AIN Director of Development Travis Gasper.
This year's theme, set by UNAIDS, is "Getting To Zero," which was also the theme in 2011 and will continue to be the theme through 2015. The theme has a three pronged mission: 1) Getting to zero AIDS-related deaths 2) Getting to zero AIDS new infections and 3) Getting to zero cases of stigma and discrimination. The theme also aligns with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy that President Barack Obama's administration released in 2010, whose primary aims were to reduce new infection HIV infections, increase access to care and improve health outcomes for people living with AIDS and reduce HIV-related health disparities.
Gasper said that the World AIDS Day Dallas was designed to be an event that would leave people walking away being hopeful. The site of the event was specifically chosen as one being on what Gasper describes as neutral territory; not a gay or a straight event, not a black, white or Hispanic event but an event where everyone could come and become empowered with education and awareness.
"This won't be a one-day event. We have issues coming up that we need people to continue to be engaged on. This is just getting people in the door," Gasper said. "This event is for anyone who wants to learn more about how to empower themselves to fight this preventable disease."
Speakers at World AIDS Day Dallas will include Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson. Also scheduled to speak is Michelle Anderson, the 2011 Miss Plus America, the first openly HIV-positive pageant contestant. Otis Harris, Jr. is also slated to share his story. Harris’ talks openly about his story and his process of coming out as being HIV-positive.
Entertainment will include Anthony & Sarah Garcia/ASG, a Hispanic brother and sister duo who will be doing a set at the beginning of the event. Dallas musical theater vet Denise Lee will also be performing. Additional entertainment will be provided by DeeDee Heart, Shelly Torres-West and Angel Velasco.
World AIDS Day Dallas partners include: Sister’s Gift, AIDS Arms, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas, AIDS Walk South Dallas, Avita Drugs Pharmacy, Bryan’s House, Cathedral of Hope, DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Home for the Holidays Texas, Kidscapes Foundation, Lambda Legal, Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Texas, ONE Campaign, Parkland Health & Hospital System and HIV Client Advisory Board, Razzle Dazzle Dallas, Resource Center Dallas, RESULTS, Richland College Gay and Straight Alliance, The Afiya Center, Trans Pride Initiative, United Black Ellument, UT Southwestern Medical Center and Youth First Texas.
World AIDS Day Dallas sponsors include: BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, Caven Enterprises, Cool2, The Corner Bakery, Janssen Therapeutics, John Altier, Outpost 220, Texas Instruments, The UPS Store on Cedar Springs and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
AIN was created in 1986 by a group of clergy, pastoral and lay counselors who were providing spiritual and emotional support services to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Today, AIN provides ten different client service and HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The purpose of AIN is to "serve with compassion those who have HIV/AIDS and to work to prevent the further spread of HIV." Gasper reports that two of the biggest services AIN provides are transportation and meals.
While not a medical service, transportation is key to get clients to doctor appointments, pharmacies or the food pantry all of which are important variables that assist in providing clients with long and healthy lives. AIN also provides two meals a day, Monday through Friday on site in an adult day facility so that clients that are homeless and have no where else to go during the day can come in and get meals, visit with other people just like them and not have any fear or stigma surrounding taking their medications. Approximately half of AIN clients are homeless or marginally housed.
For more information on World AIDS Day Dallas or AIDS Interfaith Network visit www.aidsinterfaithnetwork.org