The Alliance for Positive Health will be hosting their annual event Dining Out for Life April 23 to support and help those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS in Northeastern New York.

Dining Out for Life is an international event held across the United States and Canada where people dine out and a percentage of their bill is donated to local agencies to provide assistance for those living with HIV/AIDS and prevention services in the community.

“We have three solid restaurants this year, and they are all owned by local people, so it’s cool that they’re willing to participate for such a good cause,” said Tenaya Blake, Public Relations intern for the Alliance for Positive Health, who is helping coordinate the event this year.

Three local restaurants participating for this year’s Dining Out for Life are: Aleka’s, Blue Collar Bistro and Livingood’s Restaurant & Brewery.

“Our job is to get as many people into the restaurant as possible, so not only are we raising money for the agency, it helps the restaurant get new people in the door that might not have tried the restaurant yet,” Diana Aguglia, the Plattsburgh regional director for the Alliance of Positive Health, said. “We’re promoting the restaurants and telling everyone to go, so we want it to be displayed nicely.”

“The restaurants are aware that this is for a good cause as well as an influx of people that come to eat on that day,” Blake said. “This year, the restaurants are excited and working well with us. One has worked with us in the past, so it’s cool to see them really able and available.”

To sweeten the deal, any person who participates in this year’s Dining Out for Life will be eligible to win a pair of airline tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines.

The organization, which was created over 30 years ago as the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, changed its name to the Alliance for Positive Health Jan. 1.

“We were providing care management for people with HIV and AIDS and doing a lot of HIV testing and preventive work,” Aguglia said. “Over the past couple of years, we have been slowly expanding our services into other areas like hepatitis C, STD testing, care management for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and asthma.”

Aguglia said the name change has also opened some doors for people who may have felt they didn’t fit before and reduced the stigma of getting help from the agency.

The agency also provides prison services, including HIV testing, helping the transition back into the community for those who are HIV positive and making sure they have the necessary services, like housing.

On top of that, the Alliance for Positive Health is about to embark on a new syringe exchange program beginning this spring. Aguglia said the program will train people to be first responders to a possible overdose. One reason for the new program is the heroin epidemic in the community, which is closely related to HIV and hepatitis C transmission. Preventing this and keeping people healthy is part of the agency’s core mission.

“It’s a new need we identified and something we as an agency want to help with.”

Aguglia, who has been with the agency for 15 years, said one of the things that has changed over the years is the decrease in funding for HIV/AIDS because people aren’t necessarily as concerned about HIV/AIDS as they were in the ’80s.

“We had to become more competitive and look for funding other than government sources,” Aguglia said. “To meet the needs of the population, we have to change and develop new skills to fit the needs in the community.”

Email Cardinal Points at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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