Truax Award and Tree of Life ceremonies commemorate World AIDS Day
Rosana Scolari wins annual award for HIV/AIDS work
Published Thursday, 07-Dec-2006 in issue 989
San Ysidro Health Center HIV services director Rosana Scolari was awarded the Dr. Brad Truax Award at a reception held at the Continental Rehab Hospital on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. The award ceremony preceded the Mama’s Kitchen Tree of Life Lighting Ceremony held annually in commemoration of World AIDS Day.
“I don’t even know how to say how much I love what I do,” Scolari said while accepting the award statue designed by local artist John Keasler. “The company that’s here with me today is amazing. The diversity in the group is amazing.”
At the San Ysidro Heath Center, which also serves as the CASA South Bay Coordinated Services Center, Scolari advocates for the care and prevention needs of Latinos, monolingual Spanish speakers and women. She is also a member of the HIV Services Planning Council and has worked for the San Ysidro Health Center for more than nine years.
“It’s just such a privilege to be among the previous awardees,” Scolari said. “Just again, the fact that something that I love to do is recognized, and I even get paid for it, is just amazing.”
A moment of silence was taken for last year’s Truax Award recipient, Ted Gibbings, who passed away. Traditionally the previous year’s awardee presents the award to the new recipient.
The award, created to honor the memory of Dr. Brad Truax, is given annually to recognize the outstanding contributions made by a person involved in the struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Regional Task Force on AIDS established the Truax Award in 1989.
Truax died at the age of 42 in 1988 after being diagnosed with AIDS. He was one of the first physicians in San Diego to treat people with AIDS and advocated for laws to protect people with HIV/AIDS from discrimination. Truax was also instrumental in establishing the Mayor’s Task Force on AIDS in 1983, which he subsequently chaired. The Task Force evolved into the San Diego County Regional Task Force on AIDS in 1995 and developed the first strategic plan for HIV/AIDS services. The Task Force, with assistance from the county, created the Office of AIDS Coordination in 1987, which brought the first federal funding to San Diego in 1988.
“Brad Truax exemplified community service and even while he was sick with the ravages of the virus,” 1991 Truax Award recipient Dan O’Shea said as he presented a brief overview of Truax’s life and his contributions to the community.
Mama’s Kitchen Executive Director Alberto Cortes and 2003 Truax Award winner Mary Caffery introduced the 17 recipients of the 2006 Achievement Awards in recognition of their dedication, efforts and service to the community.
The recipients, who were all nominated this year for the Truax Award, were: Heidi Aiem, Mary Anthony, Lauren Farber Brookshire, Liz Brosnan, Robert Carter, Kevin Collin, Debbie Hamilton, Lorenzo Herman, Sheri Kirshenbaum, Cinnamen Kubricky, Grace Molina, Rosario Rios, Sergio Rivera, Virginia Sanchez, Dr. Davey Smith, Kim Woodworth and Scolari.
Following the Truax Award ceremony, a crowd of more than 500 people attended Mama’s Kitchen’s 15th annual Tree of Life Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Village Hillcrest Retail Center in observance of World AIDS Day.
The annual tree lighting ceremony is sponsored by Mama’s Kitchen and is a fund-raiser for the nonprofit meal delivery service that provides nutritious meals to San Diegans affected by HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses. Each year, Mama’s Kitchen raises close to $20,000 from the event.
Attendees decorated the Tree of Life with ornaments containing personalized messages to honor relatives, friends and loved ones affected by HIV/AIDS.
Keynote addresses were given by Mayor Jerry Sanders, 53rd District U.S. Congressmember Susan Davis, District 3 Councilmember Toni Atkins and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts. KUSI News anchor Kimberly Hunt was the emcee and introduced the speakers.
“This year’s theme of World AIDS Day is accountability,” Cortes said at the tree lighting. “The World AIDS campaign and its partners call on all government leaders to be accountable to the promises made, not only on a global but also on a national and local level. It is important that all necessary resources be available to overcome the AIDS pandemic.”
Cortez said each year in the U.S., more than 1.1 million people live with HIV and AIDS and more than 40,000 people become infected with HIV each year. He said life expectancy has changed dramatically due to advances in medication and care; an American diagnosed with AIDS can expect to live 24 years on average, compared to the 1993 life expectancy estimate of seven years.
“Life expectancy and the cost of care have risen from earlier estimates merely because of the effectiveness, but also the expense of drug treatments,” he said.
Davis said it’s important to translate our words into action as we continue to fight against HIV/AIDS.
“I’m hopeful that the newly elected Congress, that we can push this administration and push ourselves to increase spending for the fight against HIV/AIDS at home and abroad,” she said. “I can tell you my commitment remains, and I look forward to going back to Washington and making certain that we have adequate resources, that they’re available to us to fight HIV and AIDS.”
Sanders commended Mama’s Kitchen board, staff, volunteers and donors for their hard work in delivering more than 3.8 million meals since the organization’s inception.
“Mama’s Kitchen has become the gold standard by which all other social services agencies should be measured,” he said, adding that a base of more than 850 volunteers log more than 360,000 hours a year for Mama’s Kitchen.
San Diegans should remain vigilant in the fight against HIV and AIDS and encouraged more education about safe sex, disclosure and testing aimed at youth and other underserved communities, Sanders said.
“Because, although in many respects HIV and AIDS has become a very treatable disease, we can’t afford to let your guard down,” he said. “There’s no time for complacency.”
Atkins said the annual tree lighting ceremony is a symbol of hope during a 25-year pandemic that has affected every race, ethnicity, age group and gender on every continent.
“Even as we see the impact on the gay community, we know that AIDS is an equal opportunity killer,” she said.
Although many people with HIV/AIDS are living longer and more productive lives, there are still many younger people engaging in risky behaviors who have no first-hand experience of the devastation and death of the 1980s and 1990s, Atkins said.
Terry Cunningham, chief of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency’s HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch, said that the county recorded the 13,000th case of AIDS since 1981 on Nov. 30, the day before World AIDS Day.
“Every year since 1998, we have diagnosed 400 people a year with AIDS. This is not acceptable,” he said. “This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is keeping a promise, being accountable. Accountability is within each one of us.”