August 30, 2007
Shindle (right) joined Acosta on condom duty
Credit: Erline Andrews
Is it just us or has the number of celebrities lending their names to efforts to fight AIDS tapered off in recent months (maybe it's the August torpor)? The slowdown made us especially appreciative to see Kate Shindle, now playing blue blood Vivienne Kensington in the Broadway musical Legally Blonde, at the corner of Nostrand and Fulton Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Tuesday handing out condoms, encouraging people to get tested for HIV and taking an HIV test herself (result: negative). Shindle was volunteering with the Housing Works Mobile Access Neighborhood Outreach (MANO) mobile-testing crew, which regularly brings its services to Bed-Stuy, one of the city's epicenters of the disease. Some 5,000 residents of the neighborhood have HIV/AIDS.
"A lot of my AIDS outreach has been at Gay Pride events—hey, I'm a former Miss America," Shindle said, "but I'm glad to have this opportunity to come to Bed-Stuy. AIDS is obviously a massive problem for women and minorities." Shindle was crowned Miss America in 1998 and spent the year of her reign doing HIV prevention and education. She has since had a successful career in theater, most notably playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway.
Outreach worker Sheila Acosta showed Shindle how to engage folks in the street in conversation and if appropriate suggest they get tested. Shindle, dressed for combat in a black dress and camouflage hat, was at first shy...but soon was engaging people with the ease of a pro. A woman in her 40s initially told Shindle she was abstinent, but after a chat decided to get tested. A man in his 30s complained that Shindle didn't have large-sized condoms. Then about five minutes later he returned and said that the t-shirt the MANO crew had given him after his test wasn't big enough. "Everything's too small for you, huh?" she replied, prompting an unexpected smile and giggle from the man.
With Democrats still continuing to fund the failed abstinence-only policies of the past, it's good to know that Shindle's among the Americans who realize that condoms save lives.
"I knew she'd get the hang of it," said Acosta, who was pleased that the mobile testing unit had as many customers as it could handle. "She did great."