ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester community is mourning the loss of two longtime advocates in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Sue Cowell and Sister Arlene Helget.
An official with Trillium Health recalled their work in the community, and how they changed lives.
“I can sum it up in one word, ‘humanity,'” said Dr. William Valenti. “Their humanity showed through every single day in everything they did. And I think that explains it. You see what’s going on in the world, and you wanna try and make it better.”
Dr. Valenti says he and Sue Cowell started their first jobs at the University of Rochester in health services. She was a nurse practitioner and he was an infectious diseases physician. Both worked their way to managing the HIV epidemic.
He says Cowell helped start AIDS Rochester, which later merged with Community Health Network to form what is now Trillium Health.
Around that time, he says Arlene Helget was an early member of that task force that Sue was putting together, doing volunteer work with AIDS Rochester.
As for Arlene Helget, family says she worked as a volunteer during the height of the AIDS crisis, leaving behind a loving legacy.
“I had a patient contact me Arlene died and she was saying that when the patient first learned that she had HIV, she felt unworthy and Arlene’s ministry,” he said. “Arlene’s good words helped her get back on her feet and feel better about herself so that she could tell her family that she had AIDS.”
He says both Sue and Arlene are responsible for laying down the foundation for where we are today.
“They helped establish HIV in scientific and humanistic terms so that we are in a better place today because of the foundation that they helped lay in those very very early days, ” he said.
A remembrance service will be held for Arlene November 3rd at the Sisters of St. Joseph Morehouse at 1:30 p.m.