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December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

By: Pam Giller

Mayor Vincent C. Gray with talented MAC artists
 Today Food & Friends observes World AIDS Day - an occasion for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Although we have served clients with cancer and other types of serious illnesses since 2000, Food & Friends was first established to serve people affected by HIV/AIDS in 1988. Today, nearly half of our clients live with HIV/AIDS. On one hand, much has changed across the landscape of this epidemic since our fledgling years in the late 80's. The introduction of HAART therapeutic medications have enabled many diagnosed with the virus to enjoy longer and relatively healthy lives and awareness surround HIV/AIDS has surely improved by leaps and bounds. Despite important advancements such as these, HIV/AIDS continue to plague our community. In the Washington, DC Metro in particular, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is higher than in any other major US city and still exceeds the World Health Organization's definition of an epidemic.

Hope comes from the many in our community who have dedicated themselves to fighting this disease with compassion, diligence and generosity. Understanding that raising awareness is important but not sufficient, M•A•C AIDS Fund has raised nearly $200 million to support agencies nationwide offering a wide array of services and outreach programs related to HIV/AIDS. Food & Friends is honored to be a recipient of nearly $1 million in funding over the past 13 years from M•A•C AIDS Fund . To further connect M•A•C to our work delivering nutritious meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, 20 talented artists are spending the morning packing meals for delivery in our kitchen. Today, these volunteers will help make possible the delivery of about 3,500 meals while the support of M•A•C AIDS Fund over these past 13 years has made the delivery of hundreds of thousands of nutritious meals possible for thousands of our clients.

As an additional honor, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, spent the morning helping to package meals at Food & Friends alongside Ms. Patricia Evans, Office of Community Affairs and Mr. Steve Glaude, Director of Community Affairs. Mayor Gray also announced the launch of a DC Government employee-wide food drive which will take place during the month of December in an extended observance of World AIDS Day. Food & Friends is thrilled to have been chosen as the exclusive beneficiary of this unprecedented effort. The DC Government employees aim to collect enough non-perishable groceries to provide thousands of meals for our clients in need.

In our founding year 23 years ago, HIV/AIDS was an unknown - something feared and misunderstood. As a result, many suffered with this disease alone and without help. The earliest Food & Friends volunteers saw that this was unacceptable and over the years more have joined their ranks - more than 11,000 this year alone. As Mayor Gray noted today, we have come a very long way, but it is important to recognize that we still have a long way to go. Today we take pride and find hope in being just some of the many in this community who are dedicated to serving people touched by this virus for as long as it takes.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Director of Community Affairs for the District of Columbia Steven Glaude and Executive Director, Serve DC Patricia Evans lend a hand preparing meals in the Food & Friends kitchen.

MAC artists pack groceries for Food & Friends' Groceries-to-Go program.

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