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BY DR. MARJORIE HILL | HEALTH | GMHC has had a year of great success and transformation. As the AIDS epidemic entered its 30th year, we have made great strides in our mission of combating H.I.V. and uplifting the lives of all affected. H.I.V. and AIDS are no longer a death sentence, but a management condition, though much more remains to be done.
We share President Obama’s vision of an AIDS-free generation, but in order to achieve this worthy goal, we must greatly increase testing and understanding of how H.I.V. spreads, and ensure that people who test positive are immediately linked to treatment.
As the first organization in the fight against H.I.V./AIDS, we commemorate our 30th year in a new and improved space at 446 W. 33rd St. Having been located in Chelsea since our founding, we operated for 14 years at 119 W. 24th St., after a decade on W. 20th St. and periods on 20th and 22nd Sts. Our new offices provide us with the room to expand our services, a long-term lease to buffer the agency against rent increases, a bright new kitchen and dining room where we both continue our Meals Program and host community events. We also have the expanded Keith Haring Food Pantry Program, where we help ensure that people with H.I.V./AIDS do not go hungry.
In addition, we opened the GMHC Center for H.I.V. Prevention at 229 W. 29th St., where we provide H.I.V. testing, prevention education and a youth leadership development program.
GMHC has sparked great discussion this past year as we continue to lead the fight to revise the National Institute of Health policy banning blood donations from gay men. Our reports document how egregious this policy remains and has changed the dialogue around the issue. We know that testing would prevent disease from being transmitted, and this outdated policy stigmatizes gay men and deprives those needing blood transfusions of a potential source of lifesaving blood.
Recently, we hosted the Road to AIDS 2012 town hall meeting which brought discussion directly to the New York City H.I.V./AIDS community about the National H.I.V./AIDS Strategy and International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July. We are on the cusp of being able to achieve an AIDS-free generation and we must work together to ensure that our government helps to make this goal possible, even in this age of budget cuts and fiscal restraint. We owe it to future generations to fight this fight, and to everyone affected by the epidemic.
As GMHC enters its third decade, we recognize three leaders who have greatly assisted our work to end the epidemic. First, we honor Tim Sweeney — truly an icon of the L.G.B.T. and H.I.V./AIDS movements — who served as GMHC’s fifth executive director during challenging times for the organization, made a huge impact and helped build our movement into the force for social justice that it is today.
Second, we celebrate Duane Reade, a New York City institution that has done so much to help raise funds as the first-ever “presenting sponsor” for the AIDS Walk, money which directly supports our H.I.V./AIDS programs.
Finally, we recognize the Rudin family, which was one of the first family foundations to invest in our mission, and were integrally involved with GMHC from our early days.
On Sun., May 20, we will bring together more than 40,000 people in Central Park for our annual AIDS Walk New York, raising awareness, sparking discussion and ensuring that our transformative work with thousands of people affected by H.I.V./AIDS will continue. It is not too late to register to walk or join a team.
I urge Villagers and all Downtowners to come and visit our new offices. Please visit our Web site — gmhc.org — for upcoming community forums and related events.
Together we will make strides to uplift all affected by H.I.V. and AIDS.
For more information on AIDS Walk New York visit aidswalk.net .
Hill is C.E.O., GMHC