By: E Caitlin Brown
This past Friday, the Aids Foundation of Chicago (AFC) hosted the World of Chocolate, an annual event that unites Chicago’s foremost chefs, chocolatiers, bakers, and business leaders in an effort to bring awareness to a disease that currently affects over 20,000 Chicagoans. The event is held each year in honor of the World’s AID Day (December 1st) and aims to raise funds to support AFC’s mission to provide health and social services to those in need and to educate the public about the realities of HIV/AIDS.
While Friday marked the organization’s 17th annual World of Chocolate event, this was only my first year of attendance; from my first entrance into the elegantly decorated Revel Fulton Market, I was starstruck by the glamour of the entire setting–women in evening gowns floated past lavish displays of gourmet treats (with My Chocolate Soul taking home this year’s People’s Choice award). The sheer exquisiteness of the scene alone would be enough to explain the event’s consistent success, but there is more to the World of Chocolate event than fine dining.
So many of the guests that I spoke to reminisced about their happy memories of the event, explaining how the AFC’s mission and tireless efforts inspire people to return each year. As AFC Vice President Cynthia Tucker explains, attendees are motivated to return to WOC each year due to “The fact the event supports AFC’s efforts to mobilize communities, and create equity for people living with HIV and other chronic diseases while addressing vulnerable priority populations.”
And the AFC is truly an organization to follow. In addition to forming partnerships, providing educational resources, and managing $17 million in local, state, and federal funds for AIDS prevention and assistance services, the AFC is also pursuing a plan that would bring an end to new HIV transmission in Illinois by 2030. “For more than 30 years, we have led and partnered with health care, community based organizations, and community members to promote prevention efforts, coordinate case management and housing services and amplify voices with advocacy and community trainings and education,” says Tucker.
The end of this year’s World of Chocolate signifies another year of accomplishments for the AFC. “The biggest successes are continuing to create systems and partners in leading the fight for social justice, developing provider and organizations expertise, providing case management services through partner organizations and housing individuals with chronic diseases including HIV,” explains Tucker. “In addition, we have worked side by side with partner organizations and priority populations to create programs and increase services to the most vulnerable populations.”
With 2019 fast approaching, Tucker outlined the organization’s upcoming aspirations: “Our biggest goal will be to partner with CBOs, health care organizations and communities to implement the IL GTZ (IL Getting to Zero plan). The plan will allow us to get to functional zero by 2030. The draft plan was released on December 3, 2018 at a community prevention conference located at the DuSable Museum of African American History.”
The AFC’s World of Chocolate this year was truly a night to remember. To stay up to date with the organization’s events and to follow news for next year’s WOC, you can visit the AFC’s page here.