The AIDS United Blog Has Moved!

September 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

The AIDS United Blog can now be found here.

National HIV Testing Day

July 10, 2014 in AmeriCorps

The month of June was jam packed for Team Indianapolis promoting National HIV Testing Day in various ways.  Check out our work below!


Are you Positive you are Negative?

IMG_6038 IMG_6039

Team Indy ended the year strong with a final project promoting National HIV Testing Day on June 27th.  To motivate our community to take the test and take control, the team worked diligently with WISH TV, a local television station, to create a public service announcement to air throughout the week.  We wanted to instill a bit of doubt in the community to motivate each individual to reach out and find a free testing site.  We did this through statements such as “I’m positive, I always have protected sex…except that one time.” We are hoping statements such as this will spark an internal conversation and a bit of question about their HIV status.  Even with just a little bit of doubt, we are hoping it will be enough to push people to get tested.

It was an awesome experience to witness the production side of entertainment even through just a 15 sec segment.  The spacing of each individual for the final shot, alone, took about 30 minutes!  Once the PSA starting airing, we were able to share it across all social media sources.  It was very rewarding seeing it air on TV and hear that many of the participants had received multiple calls from friends about their recent TV fame.

Be sure to have a look for yourself!



National HIV Testing Day Raffle:


IU Health LifeCare held its annual basket fundraiser this Friday, June 27th for National HIV Testing Day. IU Health employees could enter into the basket fundraiser and then head over to the clinic for a free HIV test. All proceeds from the fundraiser go to support the 2014 Indiana AIDS Walk. Basket Themes included Movie Night, Kids Movie Night, Red Wine & Cheese and White Wine & Cheese. IU Health LifeCare, Methodist Hospital’s comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment clinic, is a recipient of the funds raised to benefit those with HIV/AIDS who need assistance with emergency shelter, utilities, food, medicine, and other daily living needs.  A large percentage of the proceeds raised by the basket fundraiser will come directly back to LifeCare and IU Health.

Kids Movie Night Basket 2014


With Team Indy, my placement was with the AIDS Service Organization Step-Up. One of my duties at Step-Up was to maintain their website which was an outreach tool that we used to inform the general public of when and where they could get free HIV and STD testing. The website gives information about HIV and other STDs and is then divided into various sections representing different areas of Indianapolis, i.e. Central, East, West, etc. I keep the information updated with current addresses and contact information for various testing sites around Indianapolis as well as their hours of operation and any outreach testing that they do offsite. Another use for is that we can advertise various testing events taking place in the city. This feature was especially useful for advertising National HIV Testing Day and was a central piece in our Testing Day public service announcement that we created as part of our Long Term Project. now has all the information anyone would need to find out when and where testing events are taking place in Indianapolis for National HIV Testing Day.​


Walgreen’s National HIV Testing Day Event:


For National HIV Testing Day, the Damien Center partnered with Greater Than AIDS and Walgreens to provide free HIV testing at 6 Walgreens locations across Indianapolis. As the AmeriCorps member in testing and prevention, it was my responsibility to plan the event. I never realized how much planning went into an event like this. The most challenging aspect of planning was getting media coverage. I was plagued with the challenge of how to reach the population that needs to be tested the most. Like most things, everything worked out. Hot 96 (a local hip-hop/R&B) station agreed to do a remote at one of the central Walgreens locations on the first day of testing. The local Fox News station interviewed several Damien Center staff about the importance of getting tested, and other local news agencies talked about the event on air. From Thursday June 26-Saturday June 28, we tested more than 200 people, many of whom had never been tested before. The testing event was a huge success and a great learning experience for me.


Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service

in AmeriCorps

Mayor’s Day of Recognition for National Service
We are a little late to post but we will post nonetheless.  Mayor’s Day of Service was a blast and we don’t want to pass on talking about it! 
Mirroring the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) mission, Mayor’s Day of Recognition focuses on engaging community members and local citizens to strengthen the communities to which they serve and foster civic engagment.  This coordinated day, with over 1750 mayors participating nationally, highlights the impact and importance of community service, demonstrates appreciation for those currently serving and hopefully inspires residents to give back to their communities as well. 
Team Indianapolis was thrilled to participate in Mayor Ballard’s coordinated day of service and appreciation alongside Wendy Spencer, the CEO of CNCS.  The team worked dilligently alongside 150 AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps members, representing over 15 different programs, to prepare back sacks for neighborhood children to take home for the weekend.  These sacks provide supplemental nutrition to children in need through healthy and filling non-perishable food items.  Pairing with NCCC and public allies, our assembly line alone was able to prepare over 1200 sacks!
The previous day, members of each AmeriCorps program were invited to a small round table discussion with Wendy Spencer where we were able to learn of our respective programs.  It was an awesome experience to learn of how far reaching the AmeriCorps network is and how different our programs are! Through a bit of networking, Team Indy is very excited to support the Indianapolis Public Allies program through their LGTQ+ film series and discussions.
  IMG_5642 10150618_10153938824060123_1802464406_n Mayor Ballard and Team Indy

Team Detroit Long-Term Project at Teen HYPE

July 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

When Team Detroit began preparing for our long-term project, we established a primary goal of creating a positive change in the city of Detroit that would last beyond our term of service. It was for this reason that we decided to commit our service to an established organization that would continue to serve the community for years to come. Our hope was that we would provide resources for this organization that they would otherwise not have, and that we would develop a framework for these resources to remain in place after our term of service was complete. Specifically, we served at Teen HYPE, a youth empowerment agency that is involved in HIV testing and care, as well as other youth services. They have an after school program where kids can study and receive help with homework. They also hold many youth-run events and fundraisers, including an annual theater play.

Team Photo 1

While serving at Teen HYPE, we collaborated with staff at the agency to design a project that would help them in an area of need. We planned to establish a framework for volunteer administration and to extend the volunteer pool that Teen HYPE currently had on call for events. In order to accomplish these goals, we wrote volunteer policies, procedures, and job descriptions for specific volunteer tasks that were needed. While Teen HYPE had a website with a volunteer form, many of the completed forms were being overlooked and so we established a staff member at the organization to contact these potential volunteers. We made contact with several organizations and companies in Detroit and established partnerships with Teen HYPE. Several of these organizations agreed to be placed in Tees volunteer pool. We also formed volunteer partnerships with multiple school fraternities at Wayne State University, which we hope will continue with each incoming class. In addition to establishing a volunteer department at Teen HYPE, we also helped out at events and volunteered consistently in their after school program in order to provide short-term help as the volunteer pool was in the process of forming. We volunteered as tutors and mentors for the kids in order to assist the staff.

Spirit of Detroit

The fruits of our commitment became evident as the year progressed and we began to see the new volunteer administration in action. For example, Teen HYPE hosted a few lunch presentations for parents about talking to their children about teen issues and was in need of many volunteers beyond what Team Detroit itself could provide. Therefore, we were able to successfully call on the new volunteer pool that we recruited and were able to gather a large group from Chrysler to help out at the events. Moments like these confirmed that we made a difference for Teen HYPE and helped extend their reach to help the Detroit youth communities. While volunteering in the after school programs we were able to see the progress of many of the students as the year progressed. Because we were seeing the same students each week, we were able to track their progress and reinforce concepts that we knew they were having trouble with. As we finish our term of service in AmeriCorps, we know that this volunteer pool that we created at Teen HYPE will be available for them to call on for many years.

Next Steps for PrEP

May 23, 2014 in Policy/Advocacy

dana van gordamer oct 07By Dana Van Gorder
Executive Director
Project Inform

In cities like San Francisco, where I sit, a relentless focus on increasing the number of HIV-positive people taking anti-retroviral medications early in infection has been primarily responsible for improvements in their health outcomes, and reducing HIV incidence. With new HIV cases numbering some 1,200 a year a decade ago, San Francisco now estimates that there will have been some 330 new cases in 2013. As a group of agencies develop a strategy for “Getting to Zero” in San Francisco, the plan’s architects firmly believe that PrEP could have an important effect on incidence, too.

The release this month of revised CDC guidelines for the use of PrEP constitutes a critically important and valuable reinforcement of the evidence that the following groups should consider using PrEP: serodiscordant couples; gay and bisexual men who have had sex without a condom or been diagnosed with an STI in the previous six months; heterosexual men and women who do not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status; and active injection drug users. The guidelines provide solid advice for medical practitioners about when to offer and how to provide PrEP to those who choose it, as well as strategies for supporting adherence to taking Truvada daily.

Indeed, two issues have been of particular concern to community members, providers and policy makers about PrEP. The first is that patients will not take Truvada daily as required in order to be effective; and the second, that PrEP will further discourage condom use among those who use it. What research, programs and policy are needed to address these issues and advance PrEP as one sound prevention option among others?

Perhaps the most important support for adherence would be the identification of PrEP medications that are long-lasting rather than requiring daily use. In fact, clinical trials are beginning on injectable PrEP agents that could last in the body for up to three months. Additionally, research from current PrEP demonstration projects will begin to help us understand whether adherence is in fact a problem among participants, and what strategies are successful in supporting it. That research will also tell us whether reduced condom use is occurring, and what strategies might address it, as well.

The current level of stigma attached to PrEP in the gay community and among medical providers must be eliminated. PrEP is an evidence-based form of harm reduction for people who are not using condoms consistently or at all during anal or vaginal sex. No one should be shamed for choosing it. Some of the same people who would support a woman’s right to use the form of contraception that best meets her needs oppose PrEP. So, too, people who would argue that condoms should be made available to teenagers because we must face the reality that many are sexually active. These folks need to rethink their position on PrEP in order to be consistent.

Far too few people who could benefit from PrEP are even aware of it. The CDC is launching a new social marketing effort targeting gay and bisexual men that includes discussion of PrEP. It and other funders should assure a multifaceted approach to community education about this intervention, with emphasis on young African-American gay and bisexual men, transwomen, and HIV-negative women in serodiscordant couples who want children. Many medical providers also badly need enlightenment about the CDC’s PrEP guidelines. The CDC has conducted one set of grand rounds on PrEP. It should add greatly to these efforts. HIVMA is conducting education for its members. So, too, should other membership organizations of medical providers, including the AMA, NMA, and GLMA.

While PrEP is being covered by many private insurers and most Medicaid programs, it is critical that advocacy continue not only for coverage, but for ease of access. Some payers require Prior Authorization or Treatment Access Requests (TARs) to initiate PrEP, slowing access or discouraging it altogether. California’s Medi-Cal program recently agreed to eliminate TARs for PrEP, and the three agencies that advocated for this – Project Inform, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and AIDS Project Los Angeles – believe this will lead to increased uptake.

Finally, while understandable focus has been placed on encouraging HIV-positive people to sign up for newly available health care insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, it would be very important to develop programs that support those HIV-negative people who are targeted for PrEP to enroll in coverage in order to access both biomedical and other prevention services.

AIDSWatch 2014: The Power of Advocacy and Sharing Our Stories

in AIDSWatch, Policy/Advocacy

Barb_Cardell_Michael_RajnerBy Michael Emanuel Rajner
Steering Committee Member
United States People Living with HIV Caucus (USPLHIV)

As people living with HIV/AIDS, we intimately know the many barriers preventing us from achieving the possible, an AIDS free generation. Despite the discovery of the HIV virus in the 1980’s, our youth continue to be poorly educated on sexual health at homes and in our public schools. Stigma is real and continues to be a factor that not only prevents people from getting tested, but also from disclosing their HIV-status and being linked and retained in high quality care, treatment and supportive services. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling recently reminded the world of the many myths we struggle to overcome to combat HIV/AIDS as a matter of public health and not further diminish the human lives struggle with the virus.

While living in New York City, I was diagnosed HIV positive in early 1996 and recall asking my physician to test me for HIV when I contracted Hepatitis B. My physician at the time replied, “people like you don’t get HIV.” I was so startled by his statement because over the last two years at the time, I lost more than a dozen friends to AIDS, some of whom I dated. At the time, as an insurance broker, I wondered what kind of people he was talking about.

When diagnosed, I initially kept my status a dark secret from my family and only shared it with a few close friends until life began to turn upside down and I needed to take time off of work to adjust to the harsh side effects brought on by HIV-medications.Rep_Alcee_Hastings

I didn’t engage in HIV-advocacy until I moved down to South Florida and joined the Campaign to End AIDS in 2005. It was my first time visiting Congress to meet with federal lawmakers and Congressional offices on the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. At the time, as a community, we struggled to harness the political will and power to once again make HIV/AIDS a national priority.

Since that time, I had the pleasure to begin to participate in AIDSWatch back when I was volunteering at the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) as the national community organizer in 2008 and helped organize the delegation participating from Florida. Each year has its own powerful moments. However, AIDSWatch 2014 for me surpassed many of the past experiences.

I’m often critical of our elected officials for not doing enough, but at the same time, in Congress, there are some amazing champions serving and willing to take on our struggle. Our going to Washington DC to share our story and the experiences of our peers are critical to not restore dignity, compassion and respect for our struggle, but it also provides ideal opportunities for leaders to share our experiences with the rest of Congress. A Senator_Bill_Nelsonmemorable example of this was Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who, after AIDSWatch 2009, chose to include the struggle of people living with HIV/AIDS during a Congressional committee hearing on Reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act.

This year I served as the state coordinator for Florida and booked a solid schedule of meetings for advocates to share their stories and educate offices on this year’s priorities. Our time with offices was limited and we collectively as a delegation worked together to connect our personal stories and struggles with each of the AIDSWatch priorities. Each office welcomed us and engaged in great dialogue and encouraged us to keep them informed. My favorite part of AIDSWatch was the teamwork and the opportunities to meet people from other parts of the county who are just as passionate about HIV advocacy.

To hear more about AIDSWatch 2014, watch this YouTube video of Barb Cardell, Vice President of the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus, speaking about her experience this year.