"Celebrating Life" – Where patients stage real stories about people living with HIV

| Source: Betances Health Center

Danny Ochoa as Cristina and Gustavo Borja as Matthew in "Celebrating Life".

Miss Universo 2013 Gabriela Isler Morales attends Betances Health Center's World AIDS Day event.

New York, Dec. 04, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- They are not the cast of a Broadway show, at least not for now. The four featured stories of people living with HIV are not fiction. It is Celebrating Life, a theatrical production created by Betances Health Center to commemorate this year’s World AIDS Day. Gabriela Isler Morales, Venezuelan TV Host and Miss Universe 2013, and Ariel Maida, Argentinean Crossover Tenor, were the hosts of the event, attended by over 200 people at the St. Augustine’s Church Parish Hall in New York City.

Betances Case Manager Isabel González wrote the theatrical production, which is based on real stories of Betances Health Center patients living with HIV. The play tells about how they deal with decisions about pregnancy, the use of the popular app Grindr and its consequences, the world of Crystal Meth, and the hostility and exclusion faced by the transgender community.

“These four stories describe the reality that our patients, who are members of the community, live with,” Director of Betances HIV Program Fidel Bu Contreras said. “We are so proud to show the community that at Betances, people have talent and work diligently to engage with our patients as they strive to obtain a high quality of life, while they also participate in the arts.”

Celebrating Life wants to raise awareness and to remove the stigma associated with HIV because it hurts so much,” said director Miguel Brandes. “I thank Betances Health Center for this opportunity.”

Betances patients, who play the protagonists, explained why Celebrating Life is important. “Today, in the twenty-first century, the struggle continues with the best weapon that human beings have developed to eradicate this virus -- that is information,” stated Fernando González, an architect, Tiffany stained glass artist, theater actor, and a patient at Betances Health Center.  

In 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed a three-point plan to move closer to the end of the AIDS epidemic in New York State. The goal is to reduce the number of new HIV infections to just 750 (from an estimated 3,000) by 2020.

“We have been working diligently to identify those newly infected and usher them to prompt treatment,” said Betances Medical Director Maria Cellario, M.D. “The elimination of this disease is possible but will take the concerted efforts of committed individuals. We at Betances Health Center are determined to continue to fight the good fight.”

“As someone who is understanding of the circumstances and stigma surrounding HIV, I give my voice and talent to share a story of the struggles associated with this disease,” said Gary Barrett, a theater and drama student, Betances patient, and actor in the play. “I hope it prevents others from falling into the same chaotic dilemma and empowers those who are still stuck in their moment of shock or fear to let go and move towards a higher place of positivity." 

Betances Health Center was founded in 1970 as a grassroots mobile unit to bring urgently needed medical services to the lower east side of New York City. It provided initial services for the homeless and to the medically indigent, including screenings, immunizations, family planning, health education, advocacy and referrals. Today, it has emerged as a leader in community-based primary care and remains committed to its mission of promoting quality healthcare as a basic right for all, regardless of ability to pay. The HIV Program provides services to over 400 patients, including HIV testing, primary care, PrEP/PEP, counseling and social services.




A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/248c0a48-715b-4332-9d5b-c67e6d397689


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/59c078ce-e319-4716-9bbe-4ecee7ca895e


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/aee24172-7dc5-49e6-a29d-2fbcd73fac9f

Isabel Garcia-Ajofrin
Betances Health Center
(212) 807-1337