The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day was “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS related deaths.” Started back in 1988 by the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day has a rich history in mobilizing the global community against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Coincidentally, a year earlier Vida/SIDA opened its doors to the community. Taking a proactive approach towards intervention, Vida/SIDA provides education, information, resources and testing services to those at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Because of their novel approach and interconnected networks within the community, Vida/SIDA has now become the model for HIV/AIDS prevention centers across the nation, according to Jose Lopez, Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. This year’s World AIDS Day commemoration started on November 30th with an event held at Antronio’s Bar and Grill in Berwyn, IL. The evening started off with a reception and was followed by outstanding performances by Gaby Badu, Rage DeMornay and Milani Ninja.
The performers then honored Miss Ketty, a longtime supporter of Vida/SIDA. Gustavo Varela, staff of Vida/SIDA, helped to organize all the wonderful performances and has been an instrumental part of the work done at Vida/SIDA. Angel Diaz, another staff member at Vida/SIDA, did an amazing job of decorating for the event. Vida/SIDA would like to thank Emmaus Ministries for their gracious donations and continued support of our work. We would also like to thank Antronio’s for allowing us to do testing at their facility on Saturdays and for their continued support of Vida/SIDA. On December 1st, World AIDS Day commenced with a parranda (Puerto Rican Caroling) that started off at the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (IPRAC) and ended with a vigil at El Casita de Don Pedro. All the local businesses that participated in the parranda were treated to coquito, songs and a community filled with compassion and solidarity. As a follow up to all the World AIDS Day events, Queer Fest America held a benefit concert for El Rescate Transitional Home at The Mutiny, 2428 N. Western Ave. Saturday night. The night started off with a showcase highlighting David Bowie tribute band Stardust, The Cathy Santonies, The Recruitment and Ez Kabage. Attendees were encouraged to bring blankets and winter coats. Queer Fest America was founded by Lair Scott, a longtime advocate of the LGBTQ community. “It’s a demographic that’s in need, in dire need, especially in wintertime,” he said. “They have no place to go.” On behalf of all the residents and staff at El Rescate and Vida/SIDA, we would like to thank Lair Scott and Mutiny for their continued support. As Vida/SIDA continues to reassert its commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS, they encourage the local and global community to work together to strengthen the cause.
by Lourdes Lugo