CEO Jacqui Kilmer’s Full Remarks at the Boulevard Bash

Thank you all for joining us as we celebrate Harlem United and welcome to the Boulevard Bash!

I can’t think of a more spectacular way to celebrate this very special night then to be here, beside the lovely Ms. Carmen Carrera, and to be able to honor my friend and colleague Patrick McGovern — who is the reason I am at Harlem United in the first place — and our friend and advocate Bevy Smith.

I want to offer a very special thank you to all of our sponsors. Every dollar you invest in Harlem United helps us to continue and to expand our life-changing and, in many cases, life-saving work.

Thank you to our Boards of Directors for your leadership.  And to the staff of Harlem United: Tonight, as our guests listen to just some of our accomplishments and clients’ stories, they will hear what I am privileged to see every day — that you absolutely rock. Thank you!

When I first came to Harlem United six years ago, I was lucky enough to be assigned to the only empty office at the time, which was the Art Therapist’s office at our Willis Green, Jr. Community Health Center.  Thinking — and hoping — I was the new Art Therapist, clients from our Adult Day Healthcare Program stopped by to chat. One client in particular continued to visit me nearly every day.

He shared stories about his life before he came to Harlem United, and he told me the ways that Harlem United changed his life: The role Rev. Ella played providing spiritual support and guidance; The temptations he felt when his former girlfriend, an active substance user, re-appeared; The influence that this Harlem United family, and its incredible programs and services, had over his fight to resist temptations, to get his life back, to move forward.

These stories cemented for me why I had come to Harlem United: Harlem United is vital to our clients. We are family for our clients.

We are in a transformative time — for the AIDS epidemic, for the delivery of healthcare services in New York State and nationwide, and for Harlem United — and transformation and change can be both exciting and scary.

One of our very special clients, whose story you will hear in the video coming up in our program, came up to me before the start of the World AIDS Day event at the Apollo Theater this past December 1st. She hugged me and, pointing to the “End AIDS 2020” logo on the screen on the stage, said, “If you really do end AIDS by 2020, just don’t forget about us.”

Harlem United will never forget. We will not abandon our legacy or our history, or the clients who are part of that history.

Harlem United has transformed and continues to transform. We do it not by discarding our past, but by taking the very best of that past — taking what we know works — using skills and models that have been successful for these past 28 years and applying them in order to expand both our services and the communities we serve. This amazing evolution is occurring literally on a daily basis!

Just yesterday, we opened our pediatric practice at The Nest, our state-of-the-art community health center on West 133rd Street. This means we now can provide critical healthcare services to the community, from birth to end of life. And just this past Friday we moved the first group of veterans from homeless shelters into permanent housing, where we will be providing supportive services and referrals to care in a program we are running through a partnership with the City, as part of the Mayor’s initiative to end veterans’ homelessness.

As we transform and expand, we will continue to support and lead the charge to end AIDS in New York State by 2020 and focus our efforts on eliminating the disparities and injustices that drive the epidemic to begin with. The availability of services like primary care, behavioral health services, supportive housing, testing and linkage to care, food and nutrition services, and vocational education services are all crucial to that effort.

We continue to learn, and we build, and we continue to provide critically necessary services in our communities. In 2015:

  • 16,242 clients accessed services;
  • 200,000 clean syringes were exchanged;
  • 708 New Yorkers were placed in safe & stable housing;
  • More than 50,000 hot meals were served to those affected by HIV/AIDS;
  • Our two Adult Day Health Centers served an average of 165 HIV-positive people daily;
  • 52 people were cured of Hepatitis C;
  • And, 4,153 HIV tests were performed.

So you see, an investment in Harlem United is an investment in our community — and I don’t mean just Harlem — our work touches people throughout New York City.

Thank you for all that you have done. Please join us in our ongoing fight. If you are inspired by our clients’ stories, by our staff, by all that you see and hear tonight, please help us to continue to do this work going forward.

Thank you so much, and thank you for being here tonight!