World AIDS Day: Bay area events & services

click to enlarge Chris Rudisill, director of LGBT Community Center Services for Metro Wellness. - JULIO RAMOS
Julio Ramos
Chris Rudisill, director of LGBT Community Center Services for Metro Wellness.

Each year on Dec. 1, people around the world unite in the fight against HIV. On Dec. 1, 2014, the World Health Organization will release a new update recommending antiretrovirals as an emergency prevention following HIV exposure, and to prevent infections affecting a large number of people living with HIV. Visit who.int or worldaidsday.org for more information. Below are events and resources for Dec. 1 and throughout the year.

WORLD AIDS DAY EVENTS

As Is For 12 years, Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project founder Garry Breul has brought uproarious and inspirational staged readings to Tampa Bay to help fund the fight against HIV/AIDS. (This past year, Breul has had to shift his focus on his own health — he was diagnosed with cancer in his lungs and brain last spring.) As Is was the play that brought Breul to Tampa Bay. In 1985, saddened by the deaths of so many in the Milwaukee theater community (including a close friend who was only 18), he moved to Sarasota to assist in Asolo State Theatre Company’s production of the drama. Join Breul and the Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project for another heartfelt rendition of William Hoffman’s Obie-winning play, which follows two young men who face the realization that one of them is affected with HIV/AIDS. The staged reading stars Steve Garland, Larry Alexander, Brian Shea, Roxanne Fay, Becca McCoy, Jim Sorensen and Stephen Ray. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to help the Metro Wellness and Community Center AIDS programs. $15 advance ticket, suggested $10-$20 donation at the door. Mon., Dec. 1, 8 p.m. American Stage Theatre Company, 163 Third St. N., St Petersburg. 727-823-PLAY (7529).


Health Fair, Film Screening & Candlelight Vigil Be a part of the change by attending a free testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), among other health services provided by Synergy Health, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 1, at Argosy University in Tampa. HIV/AIDS education and health services information, flu shots, body mass and blood pressure measurements, and depression screenings will also be available. The event, cosponsored by Argosy University, the United Nations Association of Tampa Bay, GaYBOR District Coalition, and YBOR Youth Clinic, will present a film screening at 4:15 pm that highlights The SMART Ride, an annual two-day, 165-mile bike ride from Miami to Key West benefiting AIDS organizations. A candlelight vigil will be held at 5:15 p.m. to commemorate those who have lost their battle against AIDS and AIDS-related illness. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 1403 N. Howard Ave., Tampa. Park and enter on W. La Salle Street between N. Howard Avenue and Albany Avenue. unaids.org

Positive Choices & More The substance abuse program for adults with HIV takes place at the St. Petersburg Metro Wellness and Community Center on Mon., Dec. 1, noon-2:30 p.m. Eligibility required. Call 727-321-3854 for more info. Metro Wellness offers free testing and other resources for people living with AIDS/HIV.

Rock It Red! St. Pete Installation & Vigil In remembrance of those who have died from AIDS and as a reminder of the ongoing search for a cure, approximately 70 trees between 19th and 31st streets in downtown St. Petersburg will be wrapped in red muslin from Nov. 29-Dec. 1 to create a mile-long red ribbon. Read Tiffany Razzano’s story for more details.

World AIDS Day Remembrance AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) invites the Tampa Bay community to remember the lives lost to HIV/AIDS and support those living with the diseases at ASAP’s 23rd World AIDS Day Remembrance Dec. 1 at Suncoast Hospice community service center, 3050 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Guests will be served lunch at 11:30 a.m. and reflect in a program of memorial bell tolling, prayer and music at noon. This event is free to attend and donations are welcome. To reserve seats, RSVP by Nov. 28 to David Maier at 727-328-3263. Seating is limited. —Julie Garisto

SERVICES

Metro Wellness and Community Centers Metro serves 9,500 clients annually in its three locations — Ybor City, St. Petersburg, and New Port Richey — and through its mobile medical unit. In addition to HIV/AIDS testing and comprehensive HIV medical care, Metro offers a number of educational, social, and support programs for all demographics — gay, straight, women, minorities, youth, families. New programs include High Impact Prevention, a program for people already living with HIV that focuses on safe sex, medication adherence, and maintaining relationships. Popular Opinion Leaders, another new program, educates gay and bisexual individuals so they can become leaders that share information about safe sex in their communities. Metro also operates the new LGBT Welcome Center, a multi-faceted resource in St. Pete’s Grand Central District that helps connect both visitors and local residents with Metro’s services, as well as with info about Bay area destinations and programs of interest to the LGBT community at large. metrotampabay.org

AIDS Service Association of Pinellas Through its partnership with the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Minority Health, ASAP offers a variety of services to those living with HIV and AIDS — case management, primary care, dental, counseling, pharmaceutical drug assistance, insurance services and more — as well as educational and preventative programs. With offices in St. Pete, Clearwater, and Tampa — and don’t forget its Suncoast Project at the Flamingo Resort — ASAP is also behind several popular LGBT fundraisers in the Tampa Bay area: Dining Out for Life, AIDS Walk Tampa Bay and the Santa Speedo Run/Mrs. Claus in Bras event on Dec. 14 at Centennial Park in Ybor. asapservices.org

Francis House This Tampa-based organization provides HIV supportive services both on- and off-site. Services include housing and medical case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, emergency support, nutritional services, transportation assistance and recreational therapy. HIV testing and educational programs are also available. Francis House is also planning to expand by building a new facility, the Carlos Alvarez Annez, on its property, and is currently raising funds for the project. francishouse.org

Children’s AIDS Foundation of Tampa Bay The foundation assists children who are infected with HIV/AIDS. More than 80 percent of the children treated in the Tampa Bay area live below the poverty line, and often have parents or siblings who also have HIV/AIDS. The organization offers children and their families emotional, educational, and financial support in a variety of forms. childrensaidsfoundation.org 
—Tiffany Razzano

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