Friday, March 30, 2012

GMHC Commemorates its 30th Year of HIV/AIDS Services at New York Anniversary Gala

Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the nation’s oldest AIDS service organization, will host a gala fundraising event on Wednesday, April 18, 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, at Gotham Hall.  The evening will commemorate the agency’s 30th year of prevention, care and advocacy services for thousands affected by HIV/AIDS.  At the 30th anniversary event, GMHC will honor three outstanding corporate, social justice and charitable leaders:  Duane Reade, corporate sponsor of AIDS Walk New York; Timothy Sweeney, President and CEO of the Gill Foundation; and the Rudin Family, one of New York’s leading philanthropic families.  The evening will consist of a cocktail reception, a luxury silent auction and an exclusive live auction prizes along with an elegant dinner prepared by the renowned Chef of Butter and The Darby and Food Network TV Star, Alexandra Guarnaschelli.
“We are profoundly humbled and grateful for the remarkable leadership, commitment and philanthropy of our three honorees,” said Marjorie Hill, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of GMHC. “Through their collective legacy and support, they keep GMHC moving forward –and strong, effective and resilient.”

Duane Reade:  The history of GMHC can be understood in great measure by the history of AIDS Walk New York.  The two have been intertwined since 1986.  In its 27-year history, AIDS Walk New York has become the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in the world — and GMHC would not be what it is without it.  Since 2002, Duane Reade — New York’s neighborhood drugstore — has been supporting AIDS Walk New York, and in 2010 became the event’s first-ever Presenting Sponsor. That year, combining a corporate contribution with funds raised through a citywide campaign of pin-up red ribbons in their stores, Duane Reade contributed an unprecedented $325,000 to the Walk and to the vital work of GMHC.  This tradition continued last year and will again next month at AIDS Walk New York 2012. Already, Duane Reade’s commitment has exceeded $1 million, and there is every indication that this extraordinary partnership will last well into the future.

“We are proud of the progressive support we’ve been able to provide annually for GMHC and more specifically Aids Walk New York,” said Robin Costa, President, Duane Reade Charitable Foundation and Senior Director of Human Resources for Duane Reade. “I’ve been inspired and humbly honored to actively participate in the Walk with the support of many Duane Reade employees by my side along the way.”

Tim Sweeney:  Tim’s biography reads like a 30-year history of the progressive LGBT movement and the fight against AIDS.   Since the very beginning of the epidemic, Tim served as the executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, successfully suing landlords in the nation’s first HIV discrimination case.  From 1986 to 1993, he was deputy director and then executive director of GMHC.  Under Tim’s leadership, GMHC formed a national coalition to press Washington to pass anti-discrimination laws and to secure passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Ryan White Care Act – two seminal pieces of legislation that are relied on to this day.

The Rudin Family’s philanthropic philosophy has always been about giving back to the city that has given it so much opportunity.  The family is deeply involved in supporting many of the top medical facilities and social service organizations in New York City as well as being major supporters of education and the arts.  Rudin family members serve on the boards of Memorial Sloan Kettering, The Metropolitan Museum of New York, Love Heals: The Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, Central Park Conservancy, Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Whitney Museum, The Police Foundation, and The Cooper Hewitt Museum.

The family’s connection to GMHC goes back to Beth Rudin DeWoody’s friendship with Nathan Kolodner when he was President of the Board of Directors. The family’s first gift to GMHC dates back to 1985 and has continued uninterrupted to this day. Throughout three decades, the family’s leadership has included early support of GMHC’s landmark AIDS Hotline and Child Life Program, and chairing and sponsoring numerous special events. One of the family’s greatest gifts was the participation of Eric Rudin on GMHC’s Board of Directors from 1997 through 2005. Prior to that, Eric volunteered for two years on the Hotline and since then, with his wife Fiona, has continued to provide support to all of GMHC’s programs and services. 

Since the very beginning, GMHC has been at the forefront in the fight against AIDS.  In the summer of 1981, a group of six gay men, and their friends, gathered in a New York apartment to address the “gay cancer” and raise money for research.  Over the next three decades, GMHC has continued to lead the fight through its activism, innovative HIV prevention and testing programs, and comprehensive care services including legal services, mental health support and nutritious meals – all offered free of charge to more than 11,000 men, women and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. To purchase tickets or make a donation, please click here or call (212) 367-1389.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lisa Lampanelli Says...

by Joshua Estrin, Pop Culture Examiner
Check out all my musings HERE and please follow my pals Lisa and GMHC on Twitter

Credit: Josh Estrin
When I got the opportunity to take our Twitter “romance” to the next level and interview Lisa Lampanelli I was beyond excited, but I really didn’t know what to expect.   Clearly, no one as funny as she happens by accident.  So I knew I would be talking to one smart cookie.   I was not disappointed as Lisa (since we are now “bestsies”) is caustic, controversial and at times a bit crazy, but she is also unbelievably sensitive and insightful and not afraid to show that side as freely as her more public persona.

Credit: Lisa Lampanelli
So in a sit down and whack ya up side the head with ya’ funny bone, Lampanelli shoots the “breeze” as only she can and doesn’t hold anything back…

Joshua Estrin: If you weren’t a comedian, what other profession (s) interest you?

Lisa Lampanelli: Ya’ know, some people have great answers for questions like this.  They talk about wanting to be chefs, astro (fxxing) physicists… I don’t know, it ‘s simple for me.  I like to be funny, I like to think I am pretty damn funny so big surprise I always wanted to be a comedian.

JE: You are the queen of the roasts… Is there anything you won’t say?  Any topics taboo?

LL: Anything I won’t say?  Yeah, I don’t say shxxt that isn’t funny.   If it’s not funny I won’t say it but if it is… That’s my job.   Take Whitney Houston for instance, if I am going to make a joke about her right after her death, I better make damn sure what I say is damn funny – AND IT WAS!

JE: Many people may not realize how philanthropic you are.   Why do you feel compelled to give back and do you have any charities that are especially important to you?

LL: For a long time I was a giver and then I don’t know... I got out of the habit, I forgot… Who knows, but to be honest I wasn’t doing what I could to help people.  One time I ended up going toe to toe with a bunch of “haters” from the West Baptist Church and I decided I was going to donate $1,000 dollars for EVERY protestor who showed up to spew their anti-LGBT crap.  $50,000 plus dollars later I was back in the giving mode and I think I made my point.  Don’t Fxxck with me and if ya do, I am going to find a way to make you look like an idiot and do some good for the people who deserve help and support.

As for my charities… I believe in the work of the NYC based charity Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).   They take up a fxxcking city block and in that space they take care of business.  They help people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS and they give people a sense of purpose and dignity.

JE: What CAN you tell us about the Celebrity Apprentice?

LL: It is going to be one hell of season.  Some people were surprised how “reserved” I was in the first episode…  Don’t get used to it.   I am menopausal and I play to win.  Those men are so damn boring I feel like I could perform a bodily function on the Boardroom table and it would be more interesting and some of the women on my team...

JE: What are the greatest misconceptions people have about you?

LL: Oh I don’t think people give a crxp about me.  I don’t think they stay up nights wondering what I’m really like when I’m not being me.  But, just in case one “freak” out there wants to know.  I work hard, really hard every day and yes shxt does bother me and I am not some bxitch without a soul.    Just in case one “freak” wants to know.
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Josh Estrin's interview was first published in the on March 16, 2012.

If We Knew Then What We Know Now...

by Ace Robinson

Would we have stopped AIDS? It is a valid question to ask, as the world has been aware of this epidemic for over 30 years. GMHC was passionately and courageously created 30 years ago by a group of gay men who did not know how far-reaching and devastating this disease would be to all corners of the Earth. We know through retrospective epidemiological data that the first confirmed American AIDS death occurred in 1969: a 15-year-old, sexually active young man in Saint Louis, Mo. who had never traveled abroad. And by the time HIV was isolated and identified in 1981, it had already found its target communities: people who have engaged in anal sex, injection-drug users, breastfed infants, and individuals who received medically sanctioned human tissue (i.e., donated blood or organ transplants).

During the early '80s in the States, a strong cultural shift had just occurred, from "free love" and "live and let live" to the conservative Christian movement led by Jerry Falwell. The Moral Majority had become a major player in the political field, which led to the election of President Ronald Reagan. The policies that would shape America for the next eight years would also mold America's response to the introduction of AIDS into the lives of countless individuals and the American lexicon.

Due to advances in diagnosis and treatment of the virus, in addition to the political activism of the direct and indirect victims of HIV/AIDS, the virus is no longer a death sentence for the estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million Americans who are affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But lest we forget, these data, which seem so large, are a measure of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in 2011. Thirty years ago, that number was exponentially smaller.

Imagine an America that only had around 10,000 to 20,000 persons with HIV/AIDS, and a world that may have had about 70,000 to 100,000 total cases. Couple that information with the knowledge that a muted health care response would eventually lead to 2 million deaths annually. Would it have been morally acceptable to demonize particular populations?

We have all heard countless justifications for why some people "got it," without any level of sympathy. These sentiments are based on racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and/or prejudice against addicts. Typically, bleeding hearts only pour out to individuals who are considered without fault in their HIV status, such as newborns or hemophiliacs.

After 30 years of AIDS, we know what works and, more importantly, what does not work. We know that first and foremost, education is the greatest deterrent to infection (if one is HIV-negative) or infecting another person (if one is HIV-positive). Furthermore, we have seen the effect of readily available medication (anti-retroviral drugs) on the level of impact that HIV/AIDS has on an individual and on a community. And we have seen effective public health initiatives that have saved countless lives, domestically and internationally (e.g., syringe needle exchanges).

Moreover, after 30 years of AIDS, we know that our leaders have a choice of when, how, and to whom any and all interventions are available. To the ultimate detriment of 20 million people each year, those interventions are often not available, sometimes due to funding, and sometimes due to normative culture values that punish those most in need: the world's outcasts.

It is not being cynical to suggest that if we knew then what we know now, all possible barriers to the spread of HIV/AIDS would have been enacted. Even in 2011, Congress has taken actions that will diminish headway in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Reinstating the federal ban on syringe-exchange funding, coupled with funding for abstinence-only education, unfortunately shows a trade of proven-effective health policy for proven-ineffective actions.

As HIV public health advocates, our hope is that the correct actions are taken so that in a few decades, we do not look back and wonder why the tools that we have today were not utilized. There is no viable excuse for knowing now what we already know and still not doing the right thing.
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Ace Robinson is the Managing Director of of Community Health & Research, Public Policy, and Advocacy.  His article first appeared in The Huffington Post on March 7, 2012.