There is something very personal about World AIDS Day in New York City, now being commemorated for its 31st year. It is a time to stop and remember our friends, neighbors and loved ones who we lost too early, too young. It is a time to strengthen our resolve to persevere until a cure is found.

So much progress has been made since our founder, hospice worker Ganga Stone, first delivered a meal to a man dying of AIDS in 1985. Through care, science and advocacy, we now have medications that enable people living with HIV (PWH) to live long and full lives; there is a dedicated funding stream for medical and support services for PWH – the Ryan White Care Act; and over the years there has been genuine, coordinated, bipartisan support for caring for PWH and getting to a cure. We are closer and closer.

God’s Love have been at the forefront of this movement, leading in food and nutrition services for PWH for over 30 years. Until 2001, our mission was exclusively to cook and deliver meals to those living with AIDS. We learned and grew during those first 16 years– creating a Nutrition Department staffed by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and co-creating the “Ryan White” meal, a nutrition standard for early AIDS patients. Our mission expansion has deeply benefited our original purpose: PWH who are now living longer and developing co-morbidities related to aging– in itself, a wonder– can now benefit from what we have learned from treating people living with other illnesses. This past year, through the Clinical Committee of the national Food Is Medicine Coalition, which we co-lead, RDNs from nutrition agencies across the country synthesized more than 30 years of nutrition tailored into the FMIC Medically Tailored Meal Nutrition Standards. Earlier this year, the NYC HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council which oversees the largest area of Ryan White programming and funding in the country, adopted these standards for all nutrition delivery at the request of consumers: a major victory for quality, service and health.

Last week, I had the honor of speaking with over 100 leaders and staff members of the M·A·C VIVA GLAM Fund, many of whom have volunteered or will volunteer with God’s Love this week. Our profound partnership has helped us keep our promise to never turn away anyone who qualifies for our program. It was a remarkable opportunity to gather with colleagues who are united in purpose to conquer HIV and to thank them for their 25 years of generous philanthropy, leadership in advocacy and commitment to volunteerism.

Despite deep partnerships like the one with M·A·C VIVA GLAM, there remain challenges in our communities. The Ryan White CARE Act is the only dedicated federal funding for services for PWH, and it does not cover all those who rely on nonprofits for service. Further, new infections continue to occur every day. PWH are still threatened with stigma and struggle to obtain healthcare coverage, and health disparities pervade our healthcare delivery system. There are statewide and federal plans to end AIDS, from both the community and administration, many of which address these deeper issues. While the implementation is still a work in process, the renewed commitment to people living with HIV is promising. Without ever backtracking on our commitments, we must collectively put words into action to make the vision of a world without AIDS a reality. At lunchtime tomorrow, our staff will gather to remember those we have lost and to look back at our history of service to the HIV community. We will reflect on how we have touched the lives of our clients living with HIV and have built on those lessons to reach so many others. Until the end of AIDS, God’s Love remains committed to always being there for those living with HIV, and for all of our clients, as we believe in the power of food and nutrition to heal. Today, as one God’s Love community, let us renew our commitment to our neighbors in need and look forward with hope to to a world without AIDS sometime in the near future.

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