Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show their support for people living with HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have succumbed to the disease. Here in Tacoma, it will be a special day in that Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF) will commemorate its 25th year of service to people with HIV/AIDS with an event at Tacoma Art Museum to which the public is invited. “PCAF: 25 Years of Service” will include museum admission and gallery tours, refreshments, an observation of World AIDS Day, opportunities to learn more about PCAF’s current client services and prevention programs, performances by Oasis Youth Center, and an awards presentation with State Senator Elect Jeannie Darneille as guest of honor. State Representative Laurie Jinkins and former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma will present Darneille with the first-ever PCAF Achievement Award for her pioneering work as PCAF executive director from its beginnings in 1989 to her departure from the Foundation in 2007. “You can’t have a 25th anniversary event without honoring the leader for 18 of those 25 years,” said PCAF Executive Director Duane Wilkerson. “Her years of dedication and hard work is something I’m aware of every day in this job. She set a high bar that I strive to maintain, so I’m very pleased to have followed in those footsteps. “There’s that old cliché about standing on the shoulders of giants, but that’s what we’re all doing in this field – we all are standing on the shoulders of the folks who started these missions years ago. This is the time to think back and remember those who have died, but also to remember those who have been fighting for a long time and use that to motivate us in going forward.” In conjunction with the “PCAF: 25 Years of Service” event, the Foundation asked local artists to create works of art around the image of the iconic red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity in the fight against AIDS for the past three decades. Ten artists answered the call and created thoughtful and moving artworks that will be sold at a silent auction during the Dec. 1 commemoration. For those wishing to get a preview of “ART FOR AIDS: Ribbons of Remembrance,” stop by Corina Bakery (604 Fawcett Ave.) to view the pieces up close and pick your favorite. At the Dec. 1 commemorative gala, welcoming remarks will be given by Benjii Biddle, deputy executive director at Broadway Center. Other speakers will include Wilkerson, PCAF board president Judith Billings and board member Rev. Spencer Barrett who will speak on the topic of World AIDS Day. Wilkerson, who took the helm at PCAF in 2007 upon Darneille’s leaving, said Darneille was the first person he met here in the field of HIV/AIDS. The two felt a common bond right from the start. “When this position opened, she was one of the reasons I was interested in PCAF because it had such a good reputation,” Wilkerson said. “On my second day on the job she sent me a bouquet of flowers, saying I’m so glad they chose you.”
He said Darneille remains the staunchest advocate in the legislature for people with HIV/AIDS. “In her service as a state representative, she has been the leader in saving and keeping AIDS prevention and care dollars. She has been a major drive and force, whether as executive director or in the legislature.” Darneille’s work to keep PCAF strong has also contributed to the Foundation being able to reach affected populations outside of Pierce County. Last month PCAF officially completed its merger with United Communities AIDS Network (UCAN) to provide HIV/AIDS care and prevention services for Thurston and Lewis counties. PCAF has retained UCAN’s Olympia office as well so that clients in that area won’t have to travel far to receive services. To celebrate the merger, on Nov. 28 PCAF will hold a public open house at the Olympia office (317 4th Ave. E.) from 4-5:30 p.m. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (360) 352-2375. “UCAN is really an example of what’s happening across the country with non-profits. With limited resources, agencies are starting to merge to reduce administrative costs,” Wilkerson said. “Our challenge right now is to work with Thurston and Lewis counties and find out what it means to be an agency that now serves three counties and not just Pierce County.”
Tickets to “PCAF: 25 Years of Service” must be ordered in advance at http://www.piercecountyaids.org. For more information, call (253) 383-2565.