Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry was lucky enough to participate in three World AIDS Day events this year. Events honoring World AIDS Day are held across the country and the world, and they offer an opportunity for communities to come together and support those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. In Chicago, Bonaventure House joined with local churches and community organizations for two prayer services.
One, held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, was lead by Rev. Pat Lee, the pastor of St. Joseph’s and Immaculate Conception churches. Rev. Pat Lee is the moderator for gay and lesbian outreach for the Chicago Archdiocese. Rev. Pat Lee and Joe Murray, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s and organizer for the World AIDS Day prayer service, were interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about their participation in World AIDS Day and the Catholic Church’s response to the AIDS epidemic. Rev. Pat Lee is quoted as saying, “Our prayer service is for a cure…It’s a worldwide epidemic that we want to keep on people’s minds.” You can read the Chicago Tribune article here.
The second prayer service was held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The service included a performance of ‘Aus Tiefer Not/From Darkest Night’. The performance followed a three-part theme where Bonaventure House residents told their stories in three parts, with a musical selection played in between.
A World AIDS Day event was also held in Lake County called Stand Against Stigma: World AIDS Day 2011. Stand Against Stigma had over 200 attendees. The community dinner held beforehand presented an excellent forum for friends and acquaintances to connect and created a real sense of togetherness. Community members took part in the event as speakers, singers, dancers and candle lighters. Possibly the most touching moment of the evening came at the end of the program. The Wish Ceremony involved members of the audience stating their wishes for the coming year and lighting and placing a candle on the AIDS ribbon at the front of the auditorium.
Karen Kowal, Director of The Harbor in Waukegan, was interviewed in the Lake County News-Sun about World AIDS Day. “The most powerful thing about World AIDS Day in Lake County is that people can be around other people who are not only HIV positive, but people who are are supportive of the HIV positive community. It’s important to see there’s a network of support. People really can gain strength from that.” You can read the Lake County News-Sun article here.
President Obama spoke at a World AIDS Day event hosted by Join(RED) in Washington, DC. The President spoke about ‘The Beginning of the End of AIDS,’ the extension of the White House’s plan to combat AIDS. This renewal and reinvestment calls for increases in prevention, working together and sharing responsibility in the fight against AIDS, increasing access to care for Americans living with HIV/AIDS, reducing new HIV infections, and changing policy to reflect these new goals. You can read the ‘The Beginning of the End of AIDS’ fact sheet here.
In his speech on Thursday, President Obama had this to say: “This fight is not over. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight is not over for them, it’s not over for their families, and as a consequence, it can’t be over for anybody in this room — and it certainly isn’t over for your President.”
Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry CEO Michelle Wetzel echoed this proclamation. “It isn’t over for the residents, staff, board and volunteers of Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry – not by a long shot. We’re in this until the end. We hope you will join us in the fight to end AIDS in America.”
Several community organizations have already joined us in our fight against HIV/AIDS. We would like to take this time to thank the following organizations we worked with for our World AIDS Day events this year: St. Joseph and Immaculate Conception Catholic Churches, AGLO Chicago, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lake County Department of Health, Catholic Charities of Lake County, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – Waukegan Alumni Chapter, YWCA of Lake County, First Congregational United Church of Christ, and the many individuals who dedicated their time to make these events a success.