Educating the community about HIV and AIDS

Nikki Ferraro, like many women, juggles several facets of her life. She is one of the owners of Pizza Forte with locations in Sunset Station and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. She is a wife and mother of two children. Ferraro is also president on the board of Aid for AIDS of Nevada with a dedication to AFAN for a personal reason.

Her grandmother on her mother’s side, Barbara Farrell, has been living with HIV since 1995, and her step-grandfather died from AIDS in 1994.

Born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, at the age of 5, she went to live with her grandmother and step-grandfather. Ferraro was 9 years old when her step-grandfather was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, and her grandmother tested positive for HIV a year later. After the death of her step-grandfather and the cold reception they received in their small town, she and her grandmother moved to Las Vegas when Ferraro was 13. After Farrell remarried her first husband (Ferraro’s grandfather) two years later, the family moved to Wisconsin. After graduating from high school, Ferraro returned to Las Vegas.

Nikki Ferraro“I did a bunch of things after high school,” Ferraro explained. “College wasn’t for me. I dabbled in real estate and then decided to go into marketing.” Two weeks shy of her 21st birthday, Ferraro was hired at Mandalay Bay. After that, she opened and worked at Tao for seven years. Then she met her future husband. When Ferraro became pregnant with her first child, she decided a career in nightclubs did not fit her current lifestyle and quit. “We started talking about our dream of opening pizza shops, and our first location at Sunset Station has been opened.”

She started volunteering with AFAN at the age of 18 and has been active with the organization for the past 16 years. Ferraro was asked to join the board on her 30th birthday, was elected president last year and has one more year for her term. Ferraro will continue to serve on the board in other capacities and plans to always remain active.

Two years ago, Ferraro and another board member started the women’s support group Mothers, Sisters, Daughters. “I am very proud of this group. There are two demographics that have a very difficult time walking through the doors of AFAN. One is Hispanics because they are very family oriented, which is deep-rooted in their culture. Women are the other one. They are embarrassed, they are afraid, they have children and they don’t want anyone to see them walk through the doors,” she stated. However, with many issues facing women, including social, medication and housing, it was decided to give women a chance to be free of children, drama and daunting responsibilities on the third Wednesday of the month for two hours. Meetings have included watching a movie with popcorn, seminars about health and wellness or road trips to places such as the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

According to Ferraro, “We want to keep this going since the rate of infection for women is so very high. So many women come in that are newly infected, so we want to give them this outlet. With this group, they can talk freely and openly without judgment and in confidence.”

As for her grandmother, “She is in amazing health. She has been on the [HIV medication] cocktail for 24 years and is doing very well.”

Married to Domenico “Mimmo” Ferraro, the son of Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar owners Gino and Rosalba Ferraro, she combines her passion for her personal life, businesses and volunteer work at AFAN with dignity, grace and style. Nikki Ferraro is the essence of a Fearless Female.