Women » Features

Iris House Commemorates 20 Years of Fighting HIV

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Mar 4, 2014

On March 10, the Iris House will celebrate 20 years of helping women and families living with HIV with a festive party at Ginny's Supper Club in Harlem. The event will feature entertainment by the Karl Browne Band featuring DaChonne Nicole, cocktails, hors d'eouvres and an amazing silent auction, all to raise funds for and awareness of Iris House's continuing mission.

"Iris House was founded to meet a specific need in our community: a lack of HIV services for women. Twenty years later, the women we serve are still in need of those programs, but are also telling us that they need help managing other health disparities: Hepatitis C, diabetes, obesity and hypertension," said Executive Director Ingrid N. Floyd. "Iris House is excited to be expanding its focus to provide a broader range of health care services and educational programs to our friends and neighbors in Central and East Harlem, the South Bronx and other neighborhoods of high need in New York City and urban New Jersey."

The event will be held in the Ginny's Supper Club at the renowned Red Rooster Restaurant, and Chef Marcus Samuelsson will be on hand to serve up tastes of his best dishes, plus complimentary cosmopolitans and rum punches.

Silent auction items will include a weeklong stay in a private home in Istanbul, five different trips to the Caribbean, a Grey Goose martini kit from Baccarat Crystal, a collection of Knicks memorabilia and a sake testing in your home with world sake expert Linda Kawabata.

Iris House Director of Development Michael Jones hopes that the event will attract about 125 people and raise $50,000 for the groups' programs, including their hot meals and food pantry. This will help out tremendously in the face of continued cuts in federal funding for women's HIV programs, including a dramatic slash in Ryan White Funds from $600,000 to $100,000 several years ago.

"At Iris House in particular, HIV is still an issue," said Jones. "It is being treated as a chronic condition like diabetes, and in many cases that’s true. But when you add in poverty, education and housing, HIV is still a life-changing diagnosis, and still has the trauma to go with it. Iris House is here for people who don’t have high-priced doctors or access to drugs. There are still people contracting this disease who need a hand to guide them through the increasingly complicated health care process."

Case managers and coordinators at Iris House help many women of color who are living with HIV. They do community outreach with churches and faith-based organizations, and teen outreach for girls aged 14-18 years old, to give them a sense of empowerment to make their own decisions. They also run teen outreach programs in Irvington, NJ, to answer kids’ questions in a safe environment.

Jones said that their work is still very important, noting that the 2010 National HIV Survey was critical of their industry, but at the same time offered only one paragraph addressing women and HIV, out of 36 pages of material.

"The focus on women started as a grassroots movement and continues to be a grassroots movement, because no one is speaking for them," said Jones. "The CDC numbers of new infections are going down, but women are still number two in new infections. It’s frightening that we’re back at that stage, but there has been a complacency."

Iris House tested 2,500 people for HIV in 2013, said Jones, and luckily, the vast majority tested negative. But as Jones said, "We can’t stop trying. Until there are no new infections or a cure, we must work to educate and get women into treatment. It’s still as important as it’s ever been."

The ASO will use the bulk of funds raised at this event to fund their hot meals and nutrition program for women. They have had some assistance from the MAC AIDS Fund, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Wal-Mart to help provide healthy meals to their clients, many of whom who are living in SROs or staying with friends or relatives. They offer hot meals in house, a pantry program where clients can pick up fresh produce, healthy grains and lean proteins, and a cooking class to teach them how to prepare these foods.

The anniversary fundraiser will also help support Iris House’s Women As The Face of AIDS event at the New York Academy of Medicine on May 5 and 10. The May 5 event will offer a full day of events focusing on HIV education at all ages, including 18 breakout sessions, eight poster presentations and plenary panels, all open to the community. The May 10 event will be a Community Health Fair component with resources for teens, women and seniors.

"Our 20th Anniversary Celebration is more than a party: it’s a recommitment to what’s important to ensure that women, men and children have access to the tools they need to live a healthier, stronger and more independent life," said Floyd.

Iris House saves lives through comprehensive support, prevention and education services for women, families and underserved populations affected by HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in a safe, family-centered environment by passionate professional and culturally competent staff. To fulfill their mission, Iris House offers practical services that promote prevention and education while addressing the day-to-day realities of living with HIV, Hepatitis C, diabetes, hypertension and other health issues in the community.

The Iris House 20th Anniversary Fundraiser will be held from 7-9:30 p.m. on Monday, March 10 at Ginny’s Supper Club at the Red Rooster Restaurant, 310 Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York. Tickets start at $175. To RSVP or for information, contact Kimberly Richardson at 646-548-0100 x221, or krichardson@irishouse.org, or visit www.irishouse.org

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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