BronxWorks AIDS Conference Inspires

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, the Indiana teen who helped change the face of HIV/AIDS in the United States, was the keynote speaker at BronxWorks’ annual AIDS conference.  The conference, which was attended by over 300 people, was held on Wednesday, June 8th at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University.  After a day of workshops, the conference ended with remarks by four BronxWorks participants who have benefited from the services of the organization’s Positive Living Department.

Ms. White-Ginder brought the audience to tears as she recollected the difficult times she and her family faced when Ryan was first diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984.  She said that there was no support network for people with HIV/AIDS, much less those who were dealing with pediatric AIDS.  Although their family was ostracized in their local community, they fought for Ryan’s right to attend school and educated the public, all while Ryan battled the disease.

Ryan’s efforts brought national attention, especially when he developed friendships with Michael Jackson, Elton John, and talk show host Phil Donahue.  Jackson dedicated a song and video called “Gone Too Soon” to Ryan’s memory after he died.  Ms. White-Ginder said her son and the legendary performer had “a special relationship” and praised Jackson (who was also an Indiana native) for being so publicly supportive of Ryan at a time when he faced such prejudice and fear.

The conference presented workshops on numerous subjects including HIV 101, Testing and Counseling, Mental Health Issues, Talking to Youth About Sex and HIV/AIDS, Stigma (30 Years Ago and Now), Substance Use, Treatment Adherence Strategies, Holistic Approaches to Dealing with HIV/AIDS, Domestic Violence, and Legal Services.

The day ended with the showing of a new short film, “Voices From Positive Living,” and a panel session featuring the four program participants who starred in the video.  In addition to telling their inspiring stories of overcoming adversity, they praised BronxWorks for helping them to turn their lives around.

Click here to see Voices From Positive Living.

“You all are angels,” one gentleman told the BronxWorks Positive Living staff.  “Each and every one of you has a heart of gold.”

The session concluded with the four participants receiving a rousing standing ovation.  Said one BronxWorks staff member, “Hearing these testimonials motivates and inspires me to continue my work.  No matter how difficult things are, we have to continue to make a difference for those in need.

BronxWorks Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin introduces Jeanne White-Ginder

Positive Living Department Director Bibi Karim

Caitlin Becker, Associate Coordinator of Community Service at Fordham University

Diana Mendez and Tashaka Wynter of Positive Living thank Jeanne White-Ginder

The "Voices From Positive Living" with BronxWorks’ Diana Mendez (right)

Conference co-chairs Tashaka Wynter and Diana Mendez

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