Health Commissioner Honors 12 for Their Work in HIV and AIDS

World AIDS Day Observance Held at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 2, 2009) – New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., will mark this year's observance of World AIDS Day by honoring individuals and organizations from around the State for their work in the field of HIV and AIDS.

Individuals and organizations will receive awards in a 2 p.m. ceremony today conducted in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, where panels from the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display. Award nominations were submitted from Ryan White CARE networks throughout New York and by the State Health Department AIDS Institute staff.

In New York State, more than 180,000 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 119,000 individuals are currently living with HIV/AIDS in New York State alone. NYS has developed a system of care that has contributed to a reduction in mortality for those living with HIV/AIDS, while providing prevention and other support services.

Commissioner Daines thanked Director Humberto Cruz and the AIDS Institute staff "for your compassion, commitment and leadership. I also applaud the dedication you all have shown to helping those who live with the virus." He noted that medical advances have sharply reduced the number of infants born with HIV or AIDS. Challenges for the future include infection protection for older New Yorkers, as medication regimens allow many with the virus to live longer, healthier lives.

Commissioner Daines will present awards to the following:

Bronx

Ralph Skinner's involvement in civil, human and community affairs started at a young age when he attended the march on Washington with his mother and sister in1963. In 1990, Ralph became involved with the Bronx, East Harlem and Central Harlem HIV Care Networks, and subsequently chaired all three Networks. Ralph has made a multitude of trips to legislators in New York City, Albany and Washington, D.C., to address the effects of health and social services on communities of color, including HIV/AIDS, housing, substance abuse, public health, breast and cervical cancer.

Brooklyn

Gerald DeYoung is an educator, a tireless worker, and a veteran in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He is Co-Chair of the Brooklyn HIV CARE Network Consumer Involvement Committee, and volunteers at God's Love We Deliver where he serves as a Community Health Educator, distributing condoms throughout the community. Gerald is not only an advocate, but an inspiration to those involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. His activity in the HIV/AIDS community provides a beacon of information and resources to the diverse consumer population. He is truly a bright light in the community.

Manhattan

El Grito de Poetas is a collective group of diverse Latino and Latina poets dedicated to the craft and performance of modern poetry. They believe in empowering today's youth and connecting with them through past experiences and love for the community. Their work highlights the various phases a person experiences when HIV/AIDS comes into their lives. El Grito De Poetas has worked at schools, colleges, universities and community events. They provide workshops on urban poetry to help in the expression of experiences in the lives of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. In most cases, El Grito De Poetas lends their services at no cost.

Queens

Janice Daste Sinkler has been a member of the Queens HIV Care Network since 1997. She is Chair of the Care Coordination Committee, and has been a tremendous help in identifying regional service providers to streamline entry into and maintenance in HIV service care systems. Because of her work with HIV-positive women at Jamaica Hospital, she has helped the Network to identify the needs of women living with HIV/AIDS and the barriers they face when seeking care. Janice understands the mission and purpose of the Network and is loyal, dedicated and passionate about her work on the Care Coordination Committee.

Staten Island

The Rev. Willard Nichols has been an AIDS activist for more than half his adult life, having experienced the devastation of the disease within his own family. He involved his local parish in AIDS advocacy and went on to form the Staten Island AIDS Pastoral Care Network. He has been involved with anti-poverty, anti-hunger and HIV/AIDS work in New York since the late 1970s. He joined Project Hospitality in 1994 and immediately took on the position of co-chair of the Community Awareness and Outreach Committee of the Network. He continues to serve as a minister providing pastoral care, hospitalization and bereavement counseling. He retired in the summer of 2009, leaving a career of dedication and commitment to people living with HIV and AIDS. Despite innumerable changes and crises, Rev. Will has been a consistent presence and a guiding force throughout all his years of Network activity.

Long Island

Kevin McHugh has been an active member of the Nassau-Suffolk HIV Care Network and Health Services Planning Council for more than five years. He has served as Chair for numerous committees, including the Consumer Involvement Committee and the Quality Assurance and Membership Committee. Kevin is the current Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of the Care Network. He participates and provides leadership in activities and events sponsored by regional planning bodies. He has traveled to Albany and Washington, D.C., to advocate on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS. He has also been instrumental in planning of local World AIDS Day events and regional health fairs.

Hudson Valley

Mary Beth Davis Steyer has been a dedicated member of the HIV/AIDS service continuum in the Hudson Valley region for many years. During her work in the early 1990's, Mary Beth supervised a five-bed residence in Poughkeepsie for homeless and HIV-positive individuals, before the introduction of antiretroviral medications. Her outstanding work at the residence initiated her recruitment by ARCS, where she worked in Client Services and as a Volunteer Coordinator for many years and now serves as Program Supervisor. In recent years, she was Co-Chair for the Mid Hudson Network's Case Management Committee, where she was instrumental in creating trainings and staff development for agencies throughout the region. Additionally, she is a Bereavement Specialist and has trained volunteers in Dutchess and Ulster counties. Mary Beth is known to other providers for her commitment and empathy, which is amplified in her work with the HIV-positive community.

Capital Region

Hank Albrecht has worked tirelessly for more than 15 years throughout much of New York State to advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. Soon after learning of his own diagnosis in 1991, he initiated a support group for gay, bisexual and transgender people at St. Bonaventure University. Now as a leader and Co-Chair of the Community Advisory Board for the Leadership Training Institute (LTI), he confesses he was skeptical after his first encounter with an LTI-empowered client, but after participating in the program he realized the influence of empowerment and knowledge. For the past five years, he has worked as a Case Manager at the AIDS Treatment Center of Albany Medical Center. He has done extensive public speaking at schools and colleges. He is an active member of the Northeastern HIV Care Network and current Co-Chair of the Consumer Involvement Committee.

Syracuse

Tarah L. Tapley worked for 13 years in several progressive positions in the F.A.C.E.S. Program operated by the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, serving Syracuse's inner-city communities characterized by large populations of African-Americans, Latinos and Southeast Asians. In 2008, she became Deputy Director of Southwest Community Center. Within a year of her profound contribution to this organization, Tarah began a terminal struggle with cancer to which she succumbed on June 16, 2009. In addition to fulfilling the responsibilities of her staff positions with skill and grace, Tarah was also widely recognized for her involvement as youth mentor and educator. She served on the Prevention Planning Group and participated twice in leadership development training programs operated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, graduating at the top of her CDC class in 2008. This year, she had been accepted into the Robert Wood Johnson "Ladder to Leadership" program, aimed at building the next generation of community leaders in the health field. Tarah was a passionate, spirit-filled, motivating, driven continuous learner. As remarked by her colleagues at F.A.C.E.S., Tarah "was a leader with insight, intelligence and humility enough to recognize when a different approach might work more effectively. Whatever she touched excelled. She believed in the inherent goodness of all people and in their ability to be more, even with less."

Rochester

Paula Silvestrone has been the Executive Director of AIDS Rochester Inc. for 20 years. When she took over in 1989, the agency was in turmoil. She stabilized the agency and over the years expanded the budget and corresponding breadth of services by 800 percent. Among her accomplishments are the establishment of three satellite offices to address the needs of rural people living with HIV or AIDS; the syringe exchange program, which has resulted in a significant decrease in infection among intravenous drug users in this area; and the purchase of a testing van to provide mobile services. Under her direction, AIDS Rochester has created a culture of excellence and inclusiveness that attracts professional and dedicated staff and volunteers.

Buffalo

Ray Ganoe has served as Vice President for the Division of Prevention, Education and Training at AIDS Community Services of Western New York for the past three years. He had directed Kaleida Health's Project Reach for more than 10 years, overseeing outreach, education and the region's only syringe exchange program. For more than 15 years, Ray has consistently displayed compassion, professionalism and tireless dedication to those underserved and at high risk for HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and substance use. Ray has always been an integral component in the HIV/AIDS service continuum of prevention and care, willing to lend a helping hand, share his expertise or follow through on a client's well being. Whether behind the scenes or providing direct service, Ray can always be counted on to make sure the best interest of people living with HIV/AIDS remains in the forefront. Ray has served on the AIDS Network Board of Directors for many years and is supportive in all activities and initiatives throughout the region.

Faith Community Project

The Rev. Jill Farnham has played an integral role in responding to the needs of gay men affected by HIV and AIDS from the beginning of the pandemic. As Co-Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, she cared for gay men who were affected by HIV/AIDS and did not feel welcomed by their congregations or families. She also served as Coordinator of the Eddy's CARE Team program, working with faith communities to develop CARE teams to provide social support to persons impacted by HIV and AIDS. Finally, as Coordinator of the Northeastern Ryan White CARE Network, she collaborated, coordinated, and advocated for services for persons impacted by HIV/AIDS. In addition, she was one of the original members of the Northeastern Regional Committee, which worked with the AIDS Institute Faith Communities Project to educate faith leaders on HIV/AIDS and to encourage them to become more involved in HIV prevention and health care efforts. She participated on numerous clergy panels, dialogues and roundtable discussions on how faith leaders can address HIV issues in their congregation. She is currently a chaplain with Hospice and Palliative Care in New Hartford and a volunteer with the New York Capital Region NAMES Project.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed at the Empire State Plaza Convention center until 5 p.m. today and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Thursday.