AIDS facility marks gains but still urges vigilance

  Rivington House, the largest residential AIDS care facility in the nation, marked its 10th anniversary with an open house and ceremony that looked at the remarkable changes that have occurred in treatment of the disease over the years.

Rivington House opened at 45 Rivington St. on the Lower East Side in 1995, and many of those attending and speaking at the recent ceremony made note of the changing realities of the AIDS epidemic. New treatment therapies have given many with H.I.V. a new lease on life, altering what was once almost certainly a fatal diagnosis to one now where individuals can live longer and healthier lives.

“Rivington House was once a place where people were sent to die,” said Jonathan Cossey, a former resident. “Now it is a place where the staff helps residents to get better. It is no longer a place of death.”

Arthur Y. Webb, president and C.E.O. of Village Care of New York, which operates Rivington House, told the gathering of more than 150 persons that Rivington House over the years brought together “many different people whose paths and lives intersected” at the residence. He also warned that for all the successes of AIDS treatment, people should not get complacent.

“Prevention campaigns need to redouble their efforts and we need to let people know that, yes, we have been successful, but that AIDS is still with us and is still a dangerous disease,” Webb said.

He pointed out that each year 4,000 people in New York City die as a result of AIDS.

Bruce Vladek, professor of health policy and geriatrics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, said that Rivington House and the “dedication and commitment of the staff…represent the fundamental caring that we have for each other. It is what makes our society worth living in.” At the time Rivington House was established, Vladek headed the then-Health Care Financing Administration, the federal agency involved along with the state in the development of the residence.

Rivington House is part of Village Care’s Network of AIDS Services, which offers a wide range of community-based programs and services for those living with H.I.V./AIDS. The Network serves some 1,400 individuals each year.

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