Mid-Year Report
June 7, 2016

Zwickler Funded Community Gatherings

Since the last report the program has held three community gatherings. The program has engaged its Member Advisory Committee to ensure that the topics and agenda design are culturally sensitive and relevant. These community gatherings have provided opportunities for commemorating, socialization and learning. One focused on the history and legacy of AIDS, the second on African-American History and the last was a lecture on HEP C. Each gathering has focused on a unique theme/topc with activities that get clients to interact, bond and learn from one another.

World AIDS Day Commemoration, Friday, December 4, 2015

Fifty-three clients attended the community gathering to commemorate World AIDS Day. AS program clients suggested, the gathering was a celebration of the resilience of those living with HIV, rather than a somber commemoration. The theme "Passing the Light," represented how the program passes on knowledge and support to its clients. The program opened with drumming followed by a moment of silence. A symbolic gesture of members tying a red ribbon on another's wrist represented the bonds of support created by the community. Participants shared their experiences living HIV and talked about friends and family that were lost to the disease. The program closed with a circle lighting of candles and the crowd spontaneously broke into a song — "his Little Light of Mine." The Villager covered the event. See attached article.

Black History Month Celebration, Friday, February 12, 2016

About 60% of our clientele are of African American descent. At the February Zwickler gathering, we celebrated Black Heritage month and in celebration of Valentine's Day, we tied the two themes featuring poetry readings from black writers. Some clients read their own work.

The gathering examined both the strife of the black community as well as dimensions of romance and relationships through the lenses of black poets. The raffle bags tied the theme together and they included chocolates, movie tickets, lip balm and condoms. One of the themes explored in group sessions is the shame related to sexuality; sexual practices/ history (i.e. promiscuity, risky behavior, trauma, etc); perceptions of sex (what sex means to each individual and the group); the way sex is used in their lives (maladaptive habits, coping strategy, compulsive behavior, etc).

One of the program's goals was to help clients gain insight from their sexual experiences surfacing the roots for sexual behavior/perception and helping clients to consider healthier ways to actualize desire, intimacy and connection. Engaging in safe methods of sexual intimacy is critical way of life for clients and their partners. The program was conducted twice, one in the morning and again in the afternoon. Over 70 clients participated throughout the day.

Educational forum on HEP C, on World Health Day, Thursday, April 7th

Dr. Matthew L. Scherer (board certified infectious disease specialists) and Elbis Santana Program Coordinator, both from New York Presbyterian Hospital gave a lecture on HEP C on World Health Day.

Given that viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people with HIV than among those who do not have HIV, the program has made timely Hepatitis C screening and education a key area of focus for 2016.

A key goal of the Zwickler grant was to "personalize an increasingly impersonal health care delivery system, and we expect that these occasional face-to-face interactions will accelerate trust-building between our patients and staff, allowing us to better support their health going forward." Dr. Scherer accomplished this in spades. He spoke plainly and with humor--immediately engaging the audience. He opened with a key statistic — that deaths from hepatitis C (HCV) infection among US adults outnumber AIDS fatalities which got them focused. He then went on to not giving a lecture but having a conversation about HEP C and getting audience members to talk about their own experience with HEP C treatment. His colleague was able to translate for those who only speak Spanish. Twenty-six clients attended the gathering. Those who stayed for the entire session received a movie ticket. They distributed materials and provided us with posters which we have framed and posted in the dining room and bulleting boards.

Empowerment Center Computer Lab

The program uses the space to produce its member Newsletter, It Takes a Village. Please see the last two publications included in the packet. Clients have access to the computers from 12 to 1 p.m. during the week day. This summer we have a volunteer, Michal Neria, a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University and a certified teacher, who will be teaching literacy, GED preparation classes and helping clients access their electronic health record.

Gatherings for the rest of 2016 and 2017

The costs for each of these gatherings have been substantially lower than budgeted as none of the speakers have charged a fee, attendance has been lower than expected and we have only had to supplement the meal that we currently offer. It turns out that having the events during the meal times ensures good participation. To date, we have $3,980 available from the Zwickler grant. We will able to host about seven more gatherings through 2017.