AIDS Education Month Kicks Off

Find out how you can get involved with a full list of events tomorrow through June 30

Seth Williams is the honorary chair of AIDS Education Month (courtesy of the D.A.'s office)

One in five people do not know their HIV status. And almost a quarter of people living with HIV are under the age of 25. Globally, young people represent 45 percent of all new infections. And most recently, the numbers are particularly high among African-Americans and Latinos who account for almost 90 percent of new infections each year.

That’s why tomorrow (May 31), Philadelphia FIGHT will kick off its 18th Annual AIDS Education Month (AEM) with a reception at the College of Physicians (19 S. 22nd Street at 5:30 p.m.) to bring more attention to the epidemic in our local community.

Philadelphia District Attorney and the AEM Honorary Chairperson Seth Williams is expected to join 200 members of the community in celebrating the start of a month-long series of conferences and workshops focused on HIV testing, transmission, prevention and treatment.

“AIDS Education Month has been organized every June by FIGHT since 1994,” says Mark Seaman, FIGHT’s director of development and communications. “Now in its 18th year, AIDS Education Month activities include major conferences for prison workers and ex-offenders and the general public.”

The annual awards are named for Kiyoshi Kuromiya, a pioneer in AIDS activism (courtesy of Philadelphia FIGHT)

The annual Kiyoshi Kuromiya awards will be presented at the reception. Named for the longtime HIV and civil rights activist who died of complications from AIDS in 2000, the awards will honor two notable people and one group in the region.

Among them are Louis Ortiz from Mazzoni Center. He’s worked for 15 years educating young people about HIV prevention, dealing with ongoing issues of homophobia, poverty and racism.

Jennifer Cohn, MD of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Pennsylvania, is also being honored for her work to ensure access to HIV medicine and healthcare both in Africa and in the U.S.

The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania will also receive an award for its more than 20 years of fighting for the legal rights of those living with HIV, and educating people throughout the Commonwealth about AIDS-related issues. The group has also been working to achieve fair laws and policies for those living with and affected by the virus.

Louis Ortiz is one of the award recipients this year thanks to his work with young people at Mazzoni Center (courtesy of Mazzoni Center)

Volunteer presentations will also take place in various communities throughout the city, as well as special events for target populations, and major outreach to encourage all Philadelphians to get tested for HIV. More than 10,000 individuals are directly reached by Philadelphia FIGHT’s efforts every June.

Here’s a full list of events:

June 9 (9 a.m. – 2 p.m.)
Faith Leaders and Community Spirit
Doubletree Hotel (237 S. Broad Street)

This year’s keynote speaker is the Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, the director of the Amachi Program, a national faith-based group for children of incarcerated parents. He’ll discuss how the religious community can become more involved in HIV prevention and education. Please click here for a full list of workshops.

June 14 (8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
13th Annual Prevention and Outreach Summit
The Pennsylvania Convention Center (13th and Arch Streets)

Kenyatta R. Gilbert of the Preaching Project is one of the featured speakers during an all-day meeting of faith-based leaders (courtesy of the Preaching Project)

Special guests include Timothy Brown, the man who says he was cured of being HIV-positive, and Dr. Kenyatta R. Gilbert of the Preaching Project. The conference is designed for anyone impacted by HIV/AIDS, including patients, doctors, healthcare providers, activist organizations and community groups. Please click here for a full list of workshops.

June 16 (5 – 11 p.m.)
Dance4Life Philadelphia Presents Antidote
Pine Street Community Center (401 Lombard Street)

The event uses breakdancing and other urban dance styles to raise awareness about HIV. The competition will even award $1,000 to the winner. Guests will also be able to get a free, rapid HIV test on site to be entered to win an XBOX 360.

June 16 (7 – 11 p.m.)
A Gospel Celebration of Living
Yesha Ministries (23rd and Snyder)

The inspirational night of gospel music is co-hosted by the Philadelphia Freedom from AIDS Campaign, and features notable singers and choral groups.

June 19 (8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
Beyond the Walls: Prison Health Care and Reentry Summit
The Pennsylvania Convention Center (13th and Arch Streets)

The event brings together former prisoners, advocacy organizations, faith-based groups, healthcare providers, activists, law enforcement officials and others to discuss how to prevent the spread of HIV both inside and out the prison system. Please click here for a full list of workshops.

June 21 (5:30 – 8:30 p.m.)
Movements for Change
Friends Center (15th and Cherry)

Executive Director of the William Way - Christopher Bartlett - is participating in several special events throughout the month, including a panel about AIDS in Philly (courtesy of William Way)

This event addresses civil rights, HIV activism, drug policy reform and the LGBT community with speakers and organizations sharing their own stories. Panelists include Christopher Bartlett, executive director of the William Way, and Sam Sitrin, an ACT-UP Philadelphia member.

June 23 (7 p.m. – 12 a.m.)
The Legendary Crystal Ball
Hamilton Hall at the University of the Arts (320 S. Broad Street)

COLOURS Organization helps sponsor this event featuring all-stars in the house and ballroom communities, including Jay Blahnik and Jack Mizrahi. Prizes will be awarded for the best performances and advocacy work. And free HIV tests will also be available. Click here for a full list of competition categories.

June 25 (7:30 – 9 p.m.)
HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia
Wilma Theater (265 S. Broad Street)

Director of the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs - Gloria Casarez - is also participating in events throughout the month (courtesy of Gloria Casarez)

Christopher Bartlett, executive director of the William Way, and Gloria Casarez, the director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, moderate a panel with local HIV prevention and treatment experts about the impact the disease has had in Philadelphia. Wilma is currently producing part one of the groundbreaking AIDS play Angels in America.

June 27 (all day)
National HIV Testing Day

Get tested and encourage others to also get tested at free locations throughout the region. Click here for a full list of locations and testing hours.

June 30 (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Community Cookout
Fairmount Park (33rd Street and Cecil B. Moore)

The closing event brings together friends and family for some fun and food in the sun. A DJ will be spinning all day, and there will also be a talent show, speaker jam, health fair tabling and free HIV testing.

For more information or to register for any of these events, click here or call 215-985-4448.