35 Years Confronting Stigma:“With a name like Vida/SIDA, You Will Not Survive”

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    By Ricardo Jiménez
    In 1988, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center established the Vida/SIDA program to prevent and provide care for HIV. Many people thought
    that the program’s name was not appropriate and would not last. However, the program’s founders believed that the name would empower the community by providing support and hope for those infected with AIDS. The program’s mission was to ensure that the last days of AIDS patients would be filled with life.

    On December 1st, Vida/ SIDA celebrated its 35th anniversary as the longest-running LatinX CBO HIV prevention and care program in Chicago. This coincided with the 35th World AIDS Day, and we are proud to have helped remove the stigma surrounding the word AIDS in the community. Vida/SIDA is well-known as a place where people can receive services related to HIV prevention and care.

    On a gloomy evening in Chicago, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center celebrated the 35th anniversary of Vida/SIDA at the beautiful National
    Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Culture. Dr. Jesus Vishnivetskiy Casiano hosted the event. Among the attendees were Dr. Roberto Sanabria, one of the founders, and former directors; Leony Calderón, and John Colón. John Colón also participated in the Schomburg Contemporary Art Gallery as part of a World AIDS Day LGBTQ+ Art Exhibition. Dr. Jorge Cestou, who now works for the Chicago Department of Public Health, was also present to celebrate this great honor.

    During the event, we had the pleasure of having Wilfred W. Labiosa, Ph.D., Executive Director of Waves Ahead in Puerto Rico as our guest
    speaker. Waves Ahead is an agency that focuses on providing services to the aging population in Puerto Rico, who are living with HIV. Dr. Labiosa shared his insights into the lack of services available to this population in Puerto Rico. He also spoke about his book, The LGBT Revolution in Cuba, which highlights the progress made in LGBT+ rights in Cuban society and how they have tackled the stigma surrounding the LGBT+ community.

    This most memorable evening ended with the wonderful performances of Valeria Méndez, Honorary Cacica 2023, and entertainer, CottoX.