Women in Crisis: National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Ariel Jastromb

This Wednesday, March 10th, is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The day is an important one because the face of HIV has evolved to include more women of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes. When HIV/AIDS was first discovered, it was thought that the disease afflicted only gay males. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. More specifically, AIDS is the leading cause of death for Black women between the ages of 25-34 and the 5th leading cause of death for all women aged 35-44.

Of all the ways one can catch HIV, high-risk heterosexual contact was the source of 80% of newly diagnosed infections. This statistic points to a different challenge that women face. Their safety lies in the hands of their male partners. For example, some women may not insist on condom use because of the fear that they may be left by their partner or even physically abused

Such sexual inequality is a major issue and can be seen often in couples where the male is significantly older than the woman.  In a Center for Disease Control study of urban high schools, more than one-third of women of color had their first sexual encounter with a partner that exceeded them in age. This unique struggle pertaining to relationship dynamics can render women helpless when it comes to protecting themselves from HIV infection.

Some women remain unaware of their risk because they assume their partner has always been loyal, has never used IV drugs and has only engaged in heterosexual sex. Men who have sex with other men might then transmit the disease to their female partners. Limited knowledge of HIV, a lower perception of risk, drug or alcohol use, and different interpretations of safer sex may also contribute.

Another example of sexual inequality can be seen in the case of non-injection drug abuse. To support their habit, women are more likely to sell or trade their bodies for sex. Substance abusing women are also more vulnerable to engage in high-risk sex while they are high or intoxicated.

In addition to sexual inequality in relationships, women are slightly less likely than men to receive prescriptions for the most effective HIV treatments. Financial inequality also plays a role in new HIV infections. Participants in the CDC study reported that they were more likely to engage in high-risk behavior due to financial dependence on a male.

So what’s a girl to do? The risks to females seem insurmountable. Knowledge is power and no matter how the cards are dealt, a woman has the right to protect herself from HIV. The CDC is also working to formulate a vaginal cream or gel to be applied before intercourse for protection for HIV.

To help in Massachusetts, CAB Health & Recovery Services, Inc., receives funding from the CDC for HIV risk-reduction counseling and prevention case management, as does WOMEN RISE (Risk Identification, Strategies, and Empowerment), an HIV prevention services program that engages women and their partners who are at very high risk for HIV infection, who are homeless and living in family shelters, or who are identified through street outreach.

Racing in a Wheelchair for th First Time

By Ariel Jastromb

Alejandra Taco is wheelchair participant on the Boston Living Center’s Running for Life Marathon Team. As a holistic health and nutrition coach, Alejandra understands the importance of treating the body, mind and spirit just as the BLC does. This is Alejandra’s first marathon and she has chosen to raise money and support for the BLC. She is one among 22 participants on the BLC Marathon Team. The marathon will take place on Monday, April 19th.

1. What has your training schedule been like?

A: During the week I train indoors on an indoor roller, I wake up every morning at 5:45am train for two hours and then do yoga to help me stretch. Now that the weather is getting warmer I started to train outdoors during the weekends to get use to the road and hills. My dad has been helping me train and comes with me on my practice runs.

2. What is a typical day for you?

A. I’m starting my own practice as a holistic health and nutrition coach.  Right now I’m seeing 5 clients every two weeks. I enjoy creating new healthy recipes for my clients and family to try. I meditate once a week to keep me balance and practice yin yoga as well.

3. Have you ever done a marathon before?

A: No, this is my first one. I’ve always wanted to do one and the opportunity came along. I said if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it!

4. Why did you choose to run for the Boston Living Center?

A: I was looking to support a charity that I felt connected to. I visited the center and was amazed with the resources the BLC offers to the members to help them improve their health and quality of life.  The BLC is very welcoming and supportive to every member who needs a helping hand. I strongly believe that in order to thrive in life we need to have a supportive network specially when you are face with an illness like AIDS. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the loving support of my family and friends who see me for who I am and not for my disability.

5. What’s the best part about participating in the Boston Marathon in a wheelchair?

A: You get to go fast! Now that I’m training outside and driving the racer, going down hills is super exciting. I love anything that allows me to go fast, and having people cheer you on until the finish line. I feel that if I finish the marathon, I’ll be able to do anything.

Dinnerfest 2010

By Cassandra Bent

The Boston Living Center’s annual “Dinnerfest” Kickoff party was held February 28, 2010. The longest running fundraiser, “Dinnerfest” has been bringing supporters together for 20 years.

What started off as small gatherings in homes has turned into a large restaurant hosted event. This year, over 80 restaurants donated meals to be auctioned off, including some of Boston’s top restaurants.

According to Communications Coordinator Morrigan Phillips, “BLC is where people come together to share a meal together.” In this same fashion, “Dinnerfest” is held to bring supporters together to share a meal with other supporters. Over 100 people attended the Kickoff party this year.

When the fundraiser first began, people would host dinners at their homes and supporters donated money to have a seat. As the fundraiser gained popularity it became too big to host in a home. This year, “Dinnerfest” was held at Vlora Restaurant, on Boylston St. in Boston.

What makes “Dinnerfest” different than other auctions is that people bid on the meals restaurants have donated, and then they host a dinner at that particular restaurant. Each person who attends the dinner pays the amount that was bid to have a seat.

“Dinnerfest” this year included a silent auction as well as a live auction hosted by radio personality and TV host Billy Costa. Costa, a Kiss 108 FM news and entertainment reporter, also reviews restaurants all over New England. As part of the live auction, Costa auctioned off a chance to be on his NECN TV show, “TV Diner”.

A fun and successful night, “Dinnerfest ‘10” continued the tradition of bringing people together to share a meal.

To view pictures from the event, visit the Boston Living Center “Dinnerfest 2010!” photo gallery.