CHICAGO AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) marks its milestone 35th year of service with 'Gala35,' a virtual celebration and fundraiser taking place Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. The event features an esteemed panel of guest speakers, including Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, U.S. Representative Robin Kelly and actress/singer Vanessa Williams, to celebrate AFC's 35-year history from its initial focus helping those living with AIDS to die with dignity, to its current mission helping those living with, vulnerable to or disproportionately affected by HIV and related chronic conditions live long, healthy lives with access to essential care, treatment and other support services.
"I am inspired by our work at AFC each and every day, especially how quickly and professionally our team responded to the COVID-19 pandemic," said John Peller, President/CEO of AFC. "We've expanded our programs and services and adjusted processes at the turn of a dime because our community needed help."
'Gala35' will be moderated by Kim Hunt, Pride Action Tank Executive Director and AFC Sr. Director of Policy & Advocacy Operations. Featured speakers include:
- Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker
- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot
- U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly
- U.S. Sen.Dick Durbin
- Illinois House of Representatives Majority Leader Greg Harris
- Alderman Tom Tunney, 44th Ward Chicago
- Actress/singer Vanessa Williams
- Actress Amy Landecker (from Amazon's Transparent)
- Actress Alexandra Billings (from Amazon's Transparent)
- Chef Blaque (from Netflix's Sugar Rush)
- Fred Eychaner, Chairman of Newsweb Corporation and President of the Alphawood Foundation, civil rights and peace activist Honoree, Civic Leadership Award
- Dr. Toyin Falusi, Regional Medical Director at ViiV Healthcare, HIV advocate Honoree, Community Impact Award
- Martin Cournane, AFC Board Director and volunteer, restaurant owner Honoree, Lori Kaufman Volunteer Award
- Walgreen's representatives Honoree, Corporate Leadership Award
- AFC President/CEO John Peller
- Additional AFC staff, advocates and current and past Board Members
In addition to recognizing AFC's long history of service and advocacy and its prompt response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, 'Gala35' will also focus on the future: the organization is a lead founder and active partner in Getting to Zero Illinois, an ambitious, collaborative statewide plan among healthcare providers, communities and advocates to end new HIV transmissions in Illinois by 2030 and ensure all Illinoisans living with HIV and AIDS are connected to robust health care services.
Getting to Zero Illinois centers those most disproportionately impacted by HIV, including Black and Latinx gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; transgender women of color; and black cisgender heterosexual women. To ensure the plan can achieve its goals, AFC and other Getting to Zero Illinois partners developed the plan prioritizing building health equity and dismantling racism across all health systems in Illinois.
"35 years ago, AFC's founders came together to respond to a pandemic with unsettling parallels to COVID-19. The continued fight for health equity is crucial to combat both COVID-19 and HIV and will lead to a positive impact on health outcomes for all Illinoisans," said Craig Johnson, Chair of AFC's Board of Directors.
'Gala35' sponsors include Aetna, Alderman Tom Tunney, Bernstein Private Wealth Management, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, BMO Harris Bank, CBRE, Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Chicago Dancers United, The Friedman Family, Gilead, Hilton, J&L Catering, Janssen, Kivvit, Lyceum Leadership Consulting, MAC VIVA GLAM Fund, Merck, Molson Coors, Morgan Stanley, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, and Walgreen's.
All funds raised by 'Gala35' will support AFC's mission creating justice and equity for people living with and vulnerable to HIV and related chronic conditions and support initiatives outlined in the Getting to Zero Illinois plan. Community members and residents can support by donating or purchasing tickets. For more information and to donate or purchase tickets, visit www.aidschicago.org/gala35 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
About the AIDS Foundation of Chicago: AFC mobilizes communities to create equity and justice for people living with and vulnerable to HIV or chronic conditions. AFC aspires to create a world in which people living with HIV or chronic conditions will thrive, and there will be no new HIV cases. More at: aidschicago.org .