Love Heals's Annual Benefit Educates
by hilary rhoda
I support Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, because I believe that today’s youth have the power to make a change for the next generation. In this day and age, young people have access to a wealth of information and the means to share it with an ever-widening audience. But they need the right information—information that is accurate, on message, appropriate, and culturally relevant.
Love Heals meets this need. For more than 20 years, Love Heals has remained committed to educating young people in New York about HIV; the organization has reached more than 530,000, inspiring them to live consciously and make informed, responsible decisions.
Love Heals was founded in 1992 by Stefani Greenfield, Victoria Leacock Hoffman, and Dini von Mueffling. They were friends of Alison Gertz, who contracted HIV in 1982, when she was 16, but wasn’t diagnosed until six years later. She went public with her story at a time when few dared to do so because of the enormous stigma. Her message was simple: “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”
That was 1988. Twenty-four years later, stigma still prevents us from fully comprehending the impact of this disease. Although one in 70 New Yorkers is living with HIV, we pay little attention to the epidemic locally, or even nationally. The brave HIV-positive speakers from Love Heals visit approximately 200 schools and organizations each year to share their personal stories and make the disease real for young people. Last year alone, members of the Love Heals Speakers Bureau spoke directly with nearly 49,000 young people about the realities of HIV and AIDS.
Love Heals also runs a girls’ empowerment program in New York City neighborhoods where there are high rates of HIV infection, offering a place where these young women can gather the knowledge and develop the tools to inform their communities. With culture and technology changing so rapidly, young people can better relate to their peers and spread the correct information about AIDS education.
Alison Gertz passed away in 1992, but she has left a remarkable legacy. I am in awe of the courage that it must have taken to share her story in an effort to increase awareness of the threat posed by HIV. I am honored to be a part of Love Heals’s mission to empower young people in the fight against HIV.
What: 13th annual Love Heals at Luna Farm
When and Where: Saturday, July 7 at Luna Farm, 276 Parsonage Lane, Sagaponack
Who: Charlotte Ronson, Daniel Benedict, Andrew Saffir
adriel reboh/patrickmcmullan.com (saffir & Atmosphere); alejandro iv Barragan (classroom); adriel reboh/patrickmcmullan.com (rhoda); alejandro iv Barragan (serrano)