By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO November 29, 2002 Stacey DeVinos light will shine brightly Dec. 1.
An AIDS activist who fought the perils of living in Sullivan County with the stigma and discrimination, DeVino died last November.
But the Sullivan County AIDS Task Force wont let her be forgotten. DeVino will be honored at the local celebration of this years World AIDS Day, an international program to bring attention to the plight of those suffering from the deadly disease.
This years theme is abolishing stigma and discrimination that plagues AIDS and HIV patients today a problem even here in Sullivan County.
According to Pattie Smith, co-chair of the task force and assistant director of HIV/AIDS support at the Recovery Center in Monticello, Sullivan County carries the dubious distinction of housing the most AIDS victims in New York State outside of New York City.
And with that ballooning rate, there comes rampant fear and a lot of misunderstanding.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people today who dont want people to know theyre infected because of the stigma it carries, Smith explained.
Unfortunately, even though this virus has been named since the early 80s, its still spreading, she continued. Even with the wonderful medications out there, people are still dying.
With so much going on in the world today terrorism, war this may get pushed to the back burner, and it cant be, Smith said.
DeVino pledged her life to keeping the fight against AIDS at the forefront of peoples minds.
She did a lot in the education and fight against stigma and discrimination, Smith explained. She lived life to the fullest she jumped out of airplanes, she was a very unique loving individual who was courageous right up to the end.
She was quite a person.
Smith hopes people will jump on the bandwagon in DeVinos memory, abandoning their fears and inhibitions to help take care of the burgeoning number of AIDS victims and work to prevent further infections.
With casinos a possibility on the horizon in Sullivan County, the numbers of people in need may soon rise in the area, Smith said, and the support services in place today will have to grow in order to meet the new demands.
There are good services set up, she explained. But we need to keep them in place.
If something drastic doesnt happen in terms of services, what will happen? she asked. Its really going to come down to food, shelter, clothing, medicine and support.
Theres a lot of judgment put on people, a lot of stigma, Smith continued. Its not going away.
People need to be cognizant of where the needs are in the community in order to prevent AIDS and help those who are suffering, said Smith.
This years World AIDS Day celebration in Sullivan County will be held Dec. 1 at Temple Sholom on Route 42 in Monticello. The service will be interfaith and include a candle lighting in memory of victims and a performance by singer Gail Houston.
The service will begin at 3 p.m. A quilt with panels dedicated to those lost to the fight against AIDS will be displayed during the program, and a quilt in honor of DeVino has already been sent to join other panels that will travel the country in honor of AIDS victims.
For more information or to get involved in the Sullivan County AIDS Task Force, call 794-8080, ext. 141.