On December 1st Vida/SIDA joined communities across the world in commemorating World AIDS Day, a day to honor the lives of the 33 million people who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and the 90,000 others who continue to live with HIV/AIDS.
On Thursday, approximately 150 Humboldt Park residents, community leaders, and youth from three area high schools gathered at La Casita de Don Pedro for the altar and candle lighting ceremony to honor those who had passed away from AIDS related illnesses in the community. José E. López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, and State Representative Maria Antonia “Toni” Berrios spoke about the importance of supporting people with HIV and fighting homophobia within the Latino community. The group marched in a procession to Roberto Clemente High School holding candles, carrying signs that read “Fighting for a Cure”, and calling out the names of those who had passed away.
Also, partaking in the World AIDS Day event was the With Me Comes a Cure [WMCC] program of Vida/SIDA. This HIV/STI Initiative, which is geared for youth between the ages of 13-24, is a collaborative effort between Vida/SIDA, the Community of Wellness, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. For World AIDS Day, WMCC sponsored a t-shirt contest for high school students from Clemente, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, and Aspira; the students where asked to submit designs with a message relating to World AIDS Day and HIV/AIDS.
Following the vigil, everyone gathered at Roberto Clemente High School for the reception dinner.
The program included a presentation from Dr. Jaime Martínez from the Core Center, about treatment barriers unique to HIV-positive immigrants. Zenaida López, Associate Director of Vida/SIDA, announced the winner of the t-shirt contest, followed by a female drag performer, Venus, who delighted the crowd with a colorful performance.
Armando Esquivel from Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos was the winner of the t-shirt contest and the runner up was Luis Ramírez from Clemente. The winning design was printed on 150 t-shirts, and to close the event, t-shirts where passed out to all those in attendance.
Vida/SIDA and community partners are working to educate the community about HIV transmission, encourage safer sex practices that can prevent new cases, and help those who are positive, access affordable and respectful care.
by Cassandra Avenatti