To Commemorate World Aids Day, Health Department and Community Partners Host Citywide Event and Fifth Annual Red Ball

Health Department recognizes seven community partners for their significant contributions towards ending the HIV epidemic

Citywide event raises awareness of stigma and discrimination as obstacles to optimal health care and support for people affected by HIV

Fifth annual RED Ball L.O.V.E. (Living Our Vision of Equality) features live performances, fashion shows, runway competitions, and free HIV and STI testing

November 30, 2018 – To commemorate World AIDS Day 2018, the Health Department today joined the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition – a coalition of over 60 community partners from across New York State – and the New York State Department of Health to host the fifth annual World AIDS Day citywide event at Baruch College’s Mason Hall in Midtown East. This year’s theme, “Breaking through Stigma,” raises awareness of the many forms of stigma and discrimination that create obstacles to optimal health care and support for people living with and affected by HIV. Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot shared highlights from the 2017 HIV Surveillance Annual Report (PDF) released yesterday--which mentioned the 64 percent decline of new HIV diagnosis since HIV reporting began in 2001, and presented seven community partners with 2018 World AIDS Day Awards to acknowledge their significant contributions towards ending the local epidemic. The event featured remarks from local and state government officials, community members, a presentation of names of people lost to the epidemic, and performances by Fogo Azul New York City, an all-female Brazilian drumline band, and Los Pleneros de la 21, vanguards of Puerto Rican traditional music.

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we not only remember those we lost to this epidemic, but we also celebrate our survivors and the decline of HIV diagnosis across the city,” said Acting Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Through unity, education, and activism we will continue to move forward and end this epidemic.”

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we remember those who lost their battle to AIDS and those who continue to fight it,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “As someone who is HIV positive, I'm proud to lead a Council that has made the fight against AIDS/HIV a priority, including investing $6.9 million for Ending the Epidemic in 2020.  Although we have made great progress in this fight, the battle is far from over. We will continue to fight for all New Yorkers affected by this disease.”

Later tonight, the Health Department, together with the Kiki Coalition, will host the fifth annual RED Ball L.O.V.E. (“Living Our Vision of Equality”), a fashion show and runway competition inspired by the Kiki Ball Scene, a youth-led subset of the larger mainstream House and Ball scene where people of all ages come together and express their creativity through dance, fashion, and music. From 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Union West in Chelsea, individual and house competitors will battle it out on the runway in 10 categories, including Tag Team Vogue Fem vs. Female Figure Performance – “Same LOVE,” OTA Runway – “Stomping on Stigma,” and Realness with a Twist – “Here Comes the Gride.” In addition to the runway action, community partners will provide free HIV and STI testing, and access to HIV prevention and treatment information, and safer sex products, including NYC Condoms and lubricant. The RED Ball L.O.V.E. is free and open to all ages.

“New York City’s success in accelerating the end of the HIV epidemic is built on community,” said Deputy Commissioner for the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control Dr. Demetre Daskalakis. “The 2018 commemoration of World AIDS Day celebrates not only the lives of those we have lost, but also the vibrant, living community that is directly responsible for the previously inconceivable gains we are continuing to make to achieve our NYC Ending the Epidemic goals. Through motivated activism, applied science, song, dance, and pose, our community lives their truth and shines like a beacon to the rest of the world.”

“Our 2017 HIV surveillance data show that the end of the epidemic is within reach,” said Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department's Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Dr. Oni Blackstock. “But these data tell only part of the story. Our story is also about the Health Department’s ongoing work to acknowledge and strive to undo racism and other injustices to advance health equity, including among New Yorkers affected by HIV. Our story is about our local and state government officials who have championed our efforts every step of the way. But more than anything, our story is about the power of community and community organizing in holding systems accountable for addressing the needs of all New Yorkers affected by HIV. The Health Department is proud to partner with the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition, the Kiki Coalition, and all community members to continue our ending the epidemic story.”

“World AIDS Day 2018 offers an opportunity to celebrate New York’s success in reducing new HIV infections as well as the remarkable achievements of the grass-roots activists who have helped lead the way,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

“We are proud of our ongoing partnership with New York City Health Department and our work together on HIV testing efforts and community events throughout the city,” said Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). “Like GMHC, which has been working with the House and Ball community for nearly 30 years, the Health Department understands the importance of partnering with this community as we address the disproportionate rates of HIV infection among young gay and bisexual men and transgender women of color.”

“As we come together for World AIDS Day to commemorate those we’ve lost to AIDS, and honor those living with HIV as well as their caregivers, it’s inspiring to see the progress we have made and how far we’ve truly come—since the early, darkest years of the epidemic and in the past four and half years since NY State launched its historic initiative to end the epidemic by the year 2020,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. “The current findings also make it clear that to achieve and maintain our goal of ending the epidemic, one of our most urgent remaining challenges is breaking through all types of stigma through sound policy, education, and vigilant community outreach. Whatever stigma’s form—whether it’s via housing discrimination, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, the condemnation of drug users and sex workers, or another type of intolerance—it remains a key social driver of HIV. In the coming year, we must break down stigma-based barriers to care to address disparities in infection rates, reach the communities that are most disproportionately impacted, such as young MSM of color, women of color, trans communities, and drug users, and to finally end AIDS across all affected populations, for all New Yorkers.”

World AIDS Day 2018 Award recipients are as follows:

Cecilia Gentili currently serves as the Managing Director of Policy and Public Affairs at GMHC, the world’s first and leading provider of HIV prevention, care, and advocacy. Cecilia is a contributor to Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community, and a board member at Transcend Legal and Translatina Network. She is very passionate about advocating for her community, especially Latina transgender women who may have a history of sex work, drug use, and incarceration.

Donald Powell has worked in the field of HIV prevention, advocacy, and research for 26 years. He has worked with incarcerated, substance using, and LGBT communities, leveraging his personal and professional insights to inform the work of local and state HIV community planning groups, including the HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council of New York. Mr. Powell was diagnosed with HIV in May of 1990

Grandfather Hector Xtravaganza is recognized as a legend in New York City’s underground ballroom scene and is currently the “House Grandfather” for the House of Xtravaganza, one of the most publicly recognized ballroom houses in New York City. Due to the loss of many House members, the Xtravaganzas, especially Hector Xtravaganza, have taken a more visible role in the area of HIV activism. Hector was also a model in the second installment of “¡Listos!”, the Health Department’s campaign that promotes HIV testing, prevention, and treatment among Latino men who have sex with men in New York City.

Hugo Ovejero received his law degree with an emphasis in civil rights from Buenos Aires University, Argentina in 1993. He has more than 21 years of experience working with people with HIV, and is an activist working to further the rights of sexual minorities and the Latino community. He has been a member of the New York City HIV Planning Group since 2014.

Judy Pedraza has devoted herself to community organizing and human services for more than four decades, including on issues such as tenants’ rights, substance use, and HIV. For the last 25 years, she has worked with AIDS Center of Queens County (ACQC), where she currently serves as its Transitional Housing Program Coordinator. Her early years at ACQC were spent helping clients die with dignity— those days have given way to a miraculous time devoted to empowering others to live healthy, meaningful lives.

Ofelia Barrios Ofelia Barrios has worked in the field of HIV for over 15 years, with expertise in HIV program planning, prevention education, behavioral interventions, coalition building, evaluation, strategic planning, advocacy, policy, grant writing, and capacity building and technical assistance.

The Kiki Coalition is a network of agencies throughout New York City working to empower the lives of LGBTQIA youth. Its goal and mission are to eradicate racial inequality, health disparities, and social injustice endured by often-marginalized youth. The Coalition helps build upon the resilience, talent, and empowerment of LGBTQIA youth so they can become stewards of their lives’ trajectories and the communities they represent. Its core values are safety and wellness, pride, resiliency, allyship, and social justice. Accepting the award on behalf of the Kiki Coalition are co-chairs Jermaine Ellis and Tina Jones.

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