RI & Mass. Orgs. Raise $ to Fight HIV/AIDS Through Dining Out for Life®

The AIDS Walk & 5K Run is the largest HIV/AIDS awareness event in New England and raises $1 million each year to fund programs and services of AIDS Action Committee.
Photo: Marilyn Humphries

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The AIDS Walk & 5K Run is the largest HIV/AIDS awareness event in New England and raises $1 million each year to fund programs and services of AIDS Action Committee.  Photo: Marilyn Humphries

The AIDS Walk & 5K Run is the largest HIV/AIDS awareness event in New England and raises $1 million each year to fund programs and services of AIDS Action Committee.
Photo: Marilyn Humphries

By: Lauren Walleser/ TRT Assistant Editor—

Participating restaurants will donate a percentage of purchases April 24 to AIDS Project Rhode Island as part of Dining Out for Life®, an annual fundraiser in which more than 3,000 restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds for one day to the licensed AIDS service agency in their city. AIDS Project Rhode Island has participated in Dining Out for Life® for 10 years, and the funds raised have gone to helping their clients and prevention efforts.

“We elected to participate in this event because it is a great opportunity to spread the word about HIV/AIDS as well as to raise funds that we very much need to care of Rhode Islanders who are living with HIV and to help with prevention, education and HIV testing,” said Amy Stein, development officer for AIDS Project Rhode Island. “It is such an easy event. People can help fight AIDS just by going out to eat!” [pullquote]“We elected to participate in this event because it is a great opportunity to spread the word about HIV/AIDS as well as to raise funds that we very much need to care of Rhode Islanders who are living with HIV and to help with prevention, education and HIV testing,” said Amy Stein, development officer for AIDS Project Rhode Island. [/pullquote]

Volunteers, corporate sponsors and restaurants participate in the event, and in exchange for their financial support, restaurants are listed in a citywide marketing campaign to increase customer traffic.

Dining Out For Life® was created in 1991 by an ActionAIDS volunteer in Philadelphia and now takes place in 60 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. More than $3 million dollars is raised for AIDS organizations through this event each year. With the exception of the annual licensing fee of $1,150, all money raised in these cities stays locally.

“Managers and owners [of restaurants] have told me that they participate because they want to help fight AIDS and because they get a lot of great publicity by being involved with the event,” Stein said.

Stein added that the event is important because it reminds people that HIV is still an issue in 2014 and that there is still work to do to get the number of new cases to zero. She also said the funds raised (over $15,000 each year) help the organization in their two primary roles: prevention and education and case management and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS in Rhode Island.

Their website, aidsprojectri.org, includes information about HIV, how to minimize risk of becoming infected and where to go for help and support. The organization also distributes condoms to community-based agencies and conducts HIV testing at community events, colleges and universities, and their office. Through the Ryan White Program and other sources of funding, the organization provides a continuum of support services to low income Rhode Islanders living with HIV, including mental health services, nutritional supplements, transportation assistance, dental health, and emergency financial assistance.

AIDS Project Rhode Island also hosts the AIDS Walk for Life in the state each year, to be held in September at the State House Lawn.

Philip A. Finch, vice president of communications at Fenway Health, shared why fundraisers like Dining Out for Life® and others that support HIV/AIDS organizations are important. [pullquote]“Here in Massachusetts, we’ve been able to cut our HIV infection rate in half since 1999 thanks to science-based prevention approaches and novel partnerships between the Department of Public Health and medical and public health non-profits like Fenway Health and the AIDS Action Committee. Events like Dining Out for Life® raise funds to help make that kind of work possible.”— Philip A. Finch, vice president of communications at Fenway Health[/pullquote]

“More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and about one in six of them isn’t aware that they are infected,” Finch said. “Here in Massachusetts, we’ve been able to cut our HIV infection rate in half since 1999 thanks to science-based prevention approaches and novel partnerships between the Department of Public Health and medical and public health non-profits like Fenway Health and the AIDS Action Committee. Events like Dining Out for Life® raise funds to help make that kind of work possible.”

Fenway hosts many fundraisers throughout the year to support their own efforts against HIV/AIDS as well as providing prevention and research, including The Women’s Dinner Party and Men’s Event, which help raise about $1 million each year for a variety of Fenway services. They are also one of the beneficiaries of Harbor to the Bay, an annual fundraising bike ride from Boston to Provincetown that funds HIV/AIDS care and services in Massachusetts.

“Knowing your HIV status and that of your partners and knowing how to prevent HIV transmission are important ways of reducing HIV risk and helping to curb new infections,” said Finch.

Flour was one of 40 restaurants that took part in AIDS Action’s annual Taste of the South End. Funds raised at the event help support programs and services of AIDS Action Committee.  Photo: Michael Rose

Flour was one of 40 restaurants that took part in AIDS Action’s annual Taste of the South End. Funds raised at the event help support programs and services of AIDS Action Committee.
Photo: Michael Rose

Mary Hull, vice president of development for AIDS Action Committee, also stressed how relevant the issue of HIV/AIDS is still today.

“Despite our success, we continue to see hundreds of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts each year,” Hull said. “A lack of information combined with injection drug use and homelessness creates an environment in which vulnerability to HIV infection rises dramatically. That is why in Massachusetts today, an astounding 12 percent of new HIV diagnoses occur among teens and young adults aged 13-24. Men who have sex with men are at least 44 times more likely to become HIV positive than the general population, and transgender women are 49 times more likely to become HIV positive than the general population.”

AIDS Action Committee holds several fundraisers each year, including the AIDS Walk & 5K Run the first Sunday of every June, the annual Taste of the South End; Heroes in Action; the Bayard Rustin Breakfast; the annual Chandler Street Block Party at LGBT Pride; Harbor to the Bay; and ARTcetera, a premier art auction that takes place every two years. [pullquote]“Despite our success, we continue to see hundreds of new HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts each year,” Hull said. “A lack of information combined with injection drug use and homelessness creates an environment in which vulnerability to HIV infection rises dramatically. [/pullquote]

“The Bayard Rustin Breakfast is named after Bayard Rustin, an African American gay man who worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. in the political movements for social justice and civil rights,” said Hull. “The Breakfast strives to reflect Rustin’s activism, humanitarianism, and artistic ideas by creating a multicultural, spiritual, and educational celebration that recognizes the roles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people from communities of color in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.”

This year’s Breakfast takes place April 12 and is the 25th year for the event. For more information and to buy tickets for the Breakfast, well as learn more about AIDS Action Committee’s other fundraisers, visit www.aac.org.

For more on Fenway Health, visit www.fenwayhealth.org.

For a full list of the restaurants participating in Rhode Island’s Dining Out for Life®, visit www.aidsprojectri.org/dining-out-for-life.

 

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