ELMIRA - In observance of World AIDS Day on Thursday, December 1st, The Chemung County AIDS Taskforce has scheduled a series of events beginning at 5:30pm at Wisner Park in Downtown, Elmira. This year's events include a proclamation from Mayor John S. Tonello, a reading by the CAPTeens of the names of local HIV-positive individuals who have died, a candlelight vigil and march from the park to the Clemens Center. Events at the Clemens Center begin at 6:15pm beginning with refreshments, followed at 6:30pm with a performance of the one act play Gone Tomorrow presented by the YWCA Teen Scene Theater and a musical performance by local singer/songwriter Jose "JOGO" Gomez in the Clemens Center's Mandeville Hall. The performances will be followed by refreshments served in the Clemens Center Lobby. All events are free and open to the public.
"Many things have changed in the world since the first cases of AIDS were diagnosed 30 years ago. I remember during the late eighties and into the nineties you'd hear about HIV and AIDS in the news almost everyday: news of famous people being diagnosed, protests staged by ACT-UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), new drugs being announced, attempts to find the cause and cure. . . Think about it: when was the last time anyone you heard anyone mention ACT-UP?" said Joe Edkin, a member of the AIDS Taskforce who will be serving as the emcee for the Elmira World AIDS Day Observance again this year. "In the past ten years, there have been incredible strides made in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS. HIV-infected people with access to health care can live longer, healthier lives, so you don't have ongoing reports in the news about HIV like we used to. It's fallen off peoples' radar, and that's why World AIDS Day is so important. It serves as a reminder that there are still people around the world who are dying from AIDS-related deaths every day." It is estimated that over 30 million people are living with HIV/AIDS and that 2 million people die from AIDS-related deaths every year.
December 1, 2011, marks the 22nd annual World AIDS Day. Beginning this year and continuing through 2015, the international theme for the World AIDS Campaign will be "Getting to Zero."
"'Getting to Zero' has three specific meanings," said Lynn Bassler, Chairperson of the Chemung County AIDS Taskforce. "By December 1, 2015, the World AIDS Campaign's goals are zero new HIV infections every year, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. It's ambitious, but achievable if we work together. Locally, it is very achievable if we keep educating ourselves and each other. One of our key vehicles for reminding our community about HIV and AIDS is our World AIDS Day events.This year we have a wonderful schedule of remembrance, education, and entertainment."
The program begins at 5:30pm in Wisner Park with a welcome from our returning emcee, Elmira Little Theatre's Joe Edkin. A proclamation from Mayor Tonello will be read by a representative from the mayor's office. Following the proclamation, candles will be lit and the names of area residents who were HIV-positive when they died will be read by members of CAPTeens. CAPTeens is a group of high school teens from both Elmira Free Academy and Southside High School that provide peer to peer sexuality education and promote healthy decision making to the communities in Chemung County. "We're very pleased to partner with CAPTeens this year," Bassler said. "Educating youth is one of the Taskforce's primary goals, and students are often receptive to the message when it comes from people the same age."
Candles and tickets for the free presentation of the short play Gone Tomorrow by the YWCA's Teen Scene Theater and Jose Gomez's musical performance will be available at the park starting at 5:15pm on a one-per-person basis. Any tickets not claimed at the park will be made available at the Clemens Center on a first come, first serve basis. Reservations will not be accepted.
At 6:00, there will be a candlight march to the Clemens Center where warm beverages will be served. At 6:30, the program will move into Mandeville Hall for the presentation of the Community Award and the live entertainment. Due to limited seating, tickets will be required to attend the Mandeville Hall presentations. This year's recipient of the Chemung County AIDS Taskforce Community Partner Award is Elmira Little Theatre, in recognition of their efforts to educate our community about HIV and AIDS through art and their service to the Taskforce in helping plan and publicize events throughout the year. Accepting the award on behalf of ELT will be ELT Board Members Judy Born and Steven Hovis who started ELT's relationship with the Taskforce.
Following the award ceremony, the YWCA Teen Scene Theater will present the one act play Gone Tomorrow, written by Daniel S. Kehde from a story by Mary Elizabeth Kehde. The cast features Matt Vieira, Kathleen Crocker, Brittany Parke, Najiela Deloach, Brianna Lyon, Wini Fowler, Hunter Hanson, and Lacinda Pacheco. The YWCA Teen Scene Theater is made up of students from Elmira Free Academy and Southside High School and was founded in September of 2001 under the direction of the YWCA's Kim Stanton. Their first performance, a production of the play Dont U Luv Me, was presented in October.
After the Gone Tomorrow, local singer/songwriter Jose "JOGO" Gomez will perform. The entire program should last approximately 90 minutes. At the conclusion, refreshments will be served in the Clemens Center lobby.
The Chemung County AIDS Taskforce is composed of representatives from AOMC Ivy Clinic, Planned Parenthood, Southern Tier AIDS Program, Trinity of Chemung County, YWCA, Elmira Little Theater, Chemung County Health Dept., Chemung Valley Rural Health Network, Arnot Health, and community volunteers. Their ongoing mission is to educate our community about HIV/AIDS. While all of the Taskforce's World AIDS Day events are free and open to the public, donations to the Taskforce will be gratefully accepted.