TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Senator Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) have been named as the first recipients of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation’s Riki Jacobs Award for Social Justice.
The award was established this year as a memorial to Riki Jacobs, Hyacinth’s former executive director of 16 years, to honor those who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of social justice. Jacobs died March 14, 2009, four years after she was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
The two Democratic lawmakers were announced as the first recipients in a letter from Hyacinth’s executive director, Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, who said Jacobs would have wanted Sen. Weinberg and Sen. Vitale to be the first to receive the award named for her.
“She depended on you to fight for progressive public health policies in this state, to protect the health of children and working families and make health insurance accessible to all the people of New Jersey,” Ahearn-O’Brien said in her letter.
“I am obviously humbled and honored to be recognized with this award,” Sen. Weinberg said. “While we have made great strides in combating HIV/AIDS, it continues to be a devastating illness afflicting thousands of people in our state. The men, women and children who must live with HIV/AIDS in New Jersey often have to deal with the additional burdens imposed by racism and homophobia. As lawmakers, we must ensure the victims of this disease have access to the medical care they need as well as protection from prejudices of people whose ignorance and intolerance can make their lives even worse.
Sen. Vitale the provision of services and healthcare to people with HIV/AIDS is only one part of a larger effort to ensure everyone in New Jersey has access to the doctors, life-saving drugs and medical services they need.
“To be named as one of the first recipients of the Riki Jacobs Award is a true tribute,” Sen. Vitale said. “Her hard work turned the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation into the state’s premier AIDS service provider in the state. She and her dedicated staff made it their mission to make sure people living with HIV/AIDS had their rights and benefits protected. As a legislator, I’ve tried to ensure all of us have access to the best quality health care, regardless of our personal circumstances. People living with HIV/AIDS need the services our health providers offer, but they also need us to ensure their rights to receive those services are protected.”
The Riki Jacobs Award for Social Justice will be presented at the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation’s Annual Fall Gala, Nov. 7, at Dolce Basking Ridge.