World AIDS Day was on December 1st, and this year WNCAP celebrated with a complimentary Community Breakfast Celebration featuring speakers, socializing, and of course. breakfast. The event was a smashing success, with WNCAP staff, community partners, and longtime WNCAP allies in attendance to mourn those we’ve lost, celebrate how far we’ve come, and advocate for a future with no new cases of HIV.
The breakfast event, which was free and open to the public, ran from 8am-10am on Friday, December 1st. It was hosted by President of the Blue Ridge Pride Center Board of Directors Michael David Carpenter, who joked that he “felt like a game show host” as he introduced the various speakers.
Reverend Brian Combs, Founding Pastor of the Haywood Street Congregation, offered a moving invocation where he preached about our common humanity and mentioned the tools that will keep HIV at bay, such as condom distribution and needle exchange programs.
WNCAP Executive Director Brodderick Roary gave a moving speech where he emphasized that “treatment is prevention” for HIV because a person with an undetectable viral load has zero chance of transmitting the virus.
Several WNCAP staff spoke about the wide variety of services WNCAP provides, including Prevention programs, Pharmacy Services, and Case Management. WNCAP Medical Case Manager Supervisor Katherine Ponder individually thanked each of the WNCAP Case Managers and presented them with a small token of appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
Medical Case Manager James Plunkett then spoke movingly about his experience as a WNCAP Case Manager and the role he sees WNCAP playing in dismantling structures of oppression. The full text of his remarks can be found here.
WNCAP Community Resource Coordinator Chris Winebrenner expressed gratitude for all WNCAP volunteers, and presented the 2017 WNCAP Volunteer of the Year Award to Gil Calderwood, who then spoke briefly about despite his many hours of selfless volunteer work, he still feels like he’s “not doing enough”. More details about the Volunteer of the Year Award are in a story below.
Throughout these various presentations, longtime WNCAP allies in the audience took the microphone to give anecdotes about WNCAP’s past. Asheville LGBTQ activist and community organizer Jerry Conner spoke about the early AIDS epidemic in Asheville, while former WNCAP Case Manager and HIV advocate Hope Bates gave a powerful account of how WNCAP helped her cousin die with dignity and comfort in the early 1990s.
The morning was considerably brightened by the Beer City Sisters, the Asheville chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who have become a mainstay of WNCAP programming. The Community Breakfast Celebration was generously sponsored by WNCAP, Blue Ridge Pride Center, DoubleTree by Hilton, and Sun Trust.