Browsing Category: President’s Message

Thank you, Friends

Mark IshaugDear Friends:

I am writing to share the bittersweet news that I am leaving AIDS United at the end of February.  I am returning to Chicago full-time, where I will be the CEO of Thresholds, Illinois’s oldest and largest non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of people with severe and persistent mental illness.

The AIDS United Board of Trustees has named Senior Vice President Victor Barnes Interim CEO, and a board search committee will immediately begin the process for selecting a permanent President and CEO.

AIDS United has had an incredible inaugural year, and remains in the strongest possible hands.  Your hands! You are the fabulous trustees, brilliant staff, innovative grantees, resourceful community partners, fierce advocates, generous donors, dedicated supporters, and Team to End AIDS runners who made 2011 year a resounding success.  Your collective good energy, hard work, and commitment will ensure that AIDS United soars in 2012 and beyond.

And, while I will be employed by a non-HIV/AIDS-specific organization for the first time in 25 years, I am certainly not leaving the fight against AIDS.  I never would.  I never could!  I will continue to support AIDS United, and volunteer with the incredible HIV/AIDS organizations in Chicago that I have had the honor to be connected with for many, many years.  I won’t leave the fight until the fight is over.

I want to thank each and every one of you for all you do to bring us closer to a nation without AIDS.

You have inspired me, supported me, challenged me and shown me that an AIDS-free generation is within our reach.  Your vision and your commitment have carried me, will continue to carry AIDS United as it continues in its unwavering commitment to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.  It truly is in your hands!

In awe and admiration, and with love and deep thanks,

Team To End AIDS Logo

Mark Ishaug

President & CEO

…”We Have the Technology…”

“We can re-build him.  We have the technology.”  Remember that classic opening line for the show “The Six Million Dollar Man” from the 1970′s?”  Well a version of that line is what has been going through my head as we observe this year’s World AIDS Day.

“We can end AIDS.  We have the technology.”

In other words, we are coming out of 2011 with a pretty clear prescription of what we need to do to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and around the world.  Thomas Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that AIDS is a winnable battle.  Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said major investments now can end this epidemic.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has proclaimed that creating an AIDS-free generation in our lifetime is actually within the realm of the possible.

So, while it looks like we have been shown the right path, are we going to take it?

On this World AIDS Day, it is important to remember that the United States is a part of the Global community that is fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and remains tremendously impacted by it.  Nearly 1.2 people are infected with HIV in the United States.  More than 640,000 of those who know their HIV status aren’t receiving the consistent care they need.  There are an estimated 56,300 new HIV infections each year.  Some U.S. cities report HIV prevalence rates of over 2%, a rate that surpasses many developing nations across the world. HIV/AIDS has hit many of our nation’s vulnerable communities the hardest, including communities of color (particularly African-Americans and Latinos), gay men, women, and people in living in the U.S. South.

So what can we do to continue calling attention to HIV in America?  As we announced yesterday,  AIDS United is now part of the Coalition for National HIV Awareness Month.  The goal of National HIV Awareness Month (NHAM), the first of which will be in July, 2012,  is to engage civil society and the private sector in the United States to create broad-scale public awareness of HIV/AIDS, end HIV stigma and discrimination and engage new stakeholders in the fight against the disease, with the ultimate goal of ending the epidemic.  Find out more about National Awareness Month at www.nationalhivawarenessmonth.org

The release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) by the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy in July, 2010, has been a pivotal step towards redoubling our efforts to end this epidemic here on our own soil, providing us with a clear and ambitious “blueprint” for ending the domestic epidemic.   The NHAS seeks to reduce new HIV infections, increase access to HIV care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities.

But with NHAS comes tremendous responsibility.  We must take a good hard look at what we have been doing…finding out what works and changing what doesn’t.  And then directing our strategic investments into what is working.

And what do we know works?

We know that condoms work in preventing transmission.  So do syringe exchanges programs that provide clean needles to drug users who might otherwise transmit HIV by sharing needles.  We know that targeted behavioral interventions work for affected populations, giving them the tools to make better health decisions for themselves and those they care about.

We know that getting HIV infected people access to treatment saves lives and dramatically inhibits transmission.  We know that developing networks of care, where people can get wraparound services to address immediate and ongoing needs for shelter, food, addiction and mental health, will only increase their stability and improve their adherence to HIV treatment.

We know that important scientific and medical advances, like microbicides continue to be made in preventing HIV transmission and that improvement in the delivery and efficacy of treatment is also advancing.

So we know what works and there are many paths to success.  But now we must invest, invest, invest.

One more time. We must invest! Our passion.  Our talent.  Our time.

And yes, our money.  Public sector, private sector and individuals –  we must invest NOW.

This year’s World AID Day theme is Getting to Zero:  Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination.
Zero AIDS-related deaths
.   We now have a clear path to get to zero.

“We can end AIDS.  We have the technology.”

Let’s ensure we have the moral commitment and the financial investments to Get to Zero!

Championing Access to Care

We did it!  We met our Social Innovation Fund  (SIF) required match!

Truth be told, our funding partners and champions did it!  Twelve incredibly generous and committed corporations, foundations and individual investors ensured that we met our federal 1:1 match, and to date have committed more than $2.5 million dollars to AIDS United’s Access to Care (A2C) program, which is helping thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS receive the life-saving medical care and social support services they need and deserve.

I want to acknowledge the following visionaries for their commitment and dedication to improving the lives of those living with and at risk for HIV, and for their unwavering focus on ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America and indeed throughout the world.

  • Bristol Myers-Squibb
  • Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
  • Chevron
  • Elton John AIDS Foundation
  • Ford Foundation
  • Fred Eychaner
  • Gilead
  • Janssen
  • MAC AIDS Fund
  • Rogers Innovation Fund
  • ViiV Healthcare
  • Walgreen’s

Without these champions, AIDS United and our 10 amazing A2C grantees would not be able to deliver innovative programs that improve individual health outcomes and strengthen local services systems, connecting economically and socially marginalized individuals with HIV to high-quality, patient-centered health care.  For more information about SIF and the game-changing efforts of our A2C grantees, click here.

And now we need you to be our champion, so that we can take Access to Care to a higher level. By joining our investors and making a donation to AIDS United, you can make these initial investments grow – so that we can do more good.  Together we can create innovative, sustainable and scalable programs that improve the lives of people with HIV and that lead us to our ultimate goal – the end of the AIDS epidemic in America.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Mark

Revitalizing HIV Education in the Workplace

by Mark Ishaug, President & CEO

Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and since that time we have been taking stock of what we have accomplished, how we have responded to challenges, and where we see the most promise in ending HIV/AIDS.

Today is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), which gives us another important opportunity this month to recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS in America, and to educate ourselves about one of the most significant actions that we can take as individuals in the fight against the AIDS epidemic – getting an HIV test – so we can all know our status.

CDC estimates approximately 21 percent of the 1.3 million Americans living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t connect to the life-saving care and treatment.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t take steps to prevent transmitting HIV to others.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t be able to end the HIV epidemic.  It’s that simple.

What may not be that simple though, is figuring out where to get more information on HIV/AIDS, and where to find confidential HIV testing   Especially if you live in a smaller community or rural area.

Levi Strauss & Co. came to us at AIDS United to help address this issue for their employees in the United States – many who live in smaller communities.  We worked with them to create an innovative partnership with local AIDS organizations. The goal: to help connect employees with the resources they need to manage HIV/AIDS at work and in their lives – even if they don’t live in a big city.

Starting today Levi Strauss & Co. employees around the country will have access to HIV/AIDS education, testing and care in a new effort called HIVConnect. From our perspective at AIDS United, this effort revitalizes the HIV/AIDS in the Workplace effort in the U.S. – an effort that Levi’s® helped pioneer in the earliest days of the epidemic.

Together with local AIDS organizations and AIDS United partners, the company will train employees in workplaces around the country. This will ensure their colleagues can learn more about HIV/AIDS to fight stigma and discrimination, and protect themselves.  And, most importantly, employees can connect to trusted organizations, ready to meet their needs, no matter where they are.  HIVConnect stands to provide important – and potentially life-saving – information to thousands of Levi’s employees in the U.S. about HIV/AIDS, many of whom might have never had the opportunity or the motivation to seek these resources otherwise.

This is exactly the kind of leadership and initiative we need to be seeing in many, many more American companies.  A revitalization of the workplace HIV/AIDS effort is needed in the U.S. particularly when HIV resources are tight.  And ending AIDS requires we work across sectors to improve access to much needed services.   We are so proud to be working with a company like Levi’s that shares our vision of the end of AIDS in America, and that invests in the well-being of its employees.

This June, AIDS United stands with Levi’s and hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations around the country in proclaiming that 30 years of this epidemic is enough.  We must work even harder to bring about a new anniversary to actually celebrate: The End of HIV/AIDS.  HIV/AIDS is a winnable battle and you can help us win.  Take the test. Know your status.  Take control of your life.  Be well!

To read more about HIVConnect, click here to read “Unzipped,” the Levi Strauss & Co. blog

Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and since that time we have been taking stock of what we have accomplished, how we have responded to challenges, and where we see the most promise in ending HIV/AIDS.

Today is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), which gives us another important opportunity this month to recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS in America, and to educate ourselves about one of the most significant actions that we can take as individuals in the fight against the AIDS epidemic – getting an HIV test – so we can all know our status.

Today, CDC estimates approximately 21 percent of the 1.3 million Americans living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. If we don’t know our status, we won’t connect to the life-saving care and treatment. If we don’t know our status, we won’t take steps to prevent transmitting HIV to others. If we don’t know our status, we won’t be able to end the HIV epidemic. It’s that simple.

What may not be that simple though, is figuring out where to get more information on HIV/AIDS, and where to find confidential HIV testing Especially if you live in a smaller community or rural area.

Levi Strauss & Co. came to us at AIDS United to help address this issue for their employees in the United States – many who live in smaller communities. We worked with them to create an innovative partnership with local AIDS organizations. The goal: to help connect employees with the resources they need to manage HIV/AIDS at work and in their lives – even if they don’t live in a big city.

Starting today Levi Strauss & Co. employees around the country will have access to HIV/AIDS education, testing and care in a new effort called HIVConnect. From our perspective at AIDS United, this effort revitalizes the HIV/AIDS in the Workplace effort in the U.S. – an effort that Levi’s® helped pioneer in the earliest days of the epidemic.

Together with local AIDS organizations and AIDS United partners, the company will train employees in workplaces around the country. This will ensure their colleagues can learn more about HIV/AIDS to fight stigma and discrimination, and protect themselves. And, most importantly, employees can connect to trusted organizations, ready to meet their needs, no matter where they are. HIVConnect stands to provide important – and potentially life-saving – information to thousands of Levi’s employees in the U.S. about HIV/AIDS, many of whom might have never had the opportunity or the motivation to seek these resources otherwise.

This is exactly the kind of leadership and initiative we need to be seeing in many, many more American companies. A revitalization of the workplace HIV/AIDS effort is needed in the U.S. particularl

Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and since that time we have been taking stock of what we have accomplished, how we have responded to challenges, and where we see the most promise in ending HIV/AIDS.

Today is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), which gives us another important opportunity this month to recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS in America, and to educate ourselves about one of the most significant actions that we can take as individuals in the fight against the AIDS epidemic – getting an HIV test – so we can all know our status.

Today, CDC estimates approximately 21 percent of the 1.3 million Americans living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t connect to the life-saving care and treatment.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t take steps to prevent transmitting HIV to others.  If we don’t know our status, we won’t be able to end the HIV epidemic.  It’s that simple.

What may not be that simple though, is figuring out where to get more information on HIV/AIDS, and where to find confidential HIV testing   Especially if you live in a smaller community or rural area.

Levi Strauss & Co. came to us at AIDS United to help address this issue for their employees in the United States – many who live in smaller communities.  We worked with them to create an innovative partnership with local AIDS organizations. The goal: to help connect employees with the resources they need to manage HIV/AIDS at work and in their lives – even if they don’t live in a big city.

Starting today Levi Strauss & Co. employees around the country will have access to HIV/AIDS education, testing and care in a new effort called HIVConnect. From our perspective at AIDS United, this effort revitalizes the HIV/AIDS in the Workplace effort in the U.S. – an effort that Levi’s® helped pioneer in the earliest days of the epidemic.

Together with local AIDS organizations and AIDS United partners, the company will train employees in workplaces around the country. This will ensure their colleagues can learn more about HIV/AIDS to fight stigma and discrimination, and protect themselves.  And, most importantly, employees can connect to trusted organizations, ready to meet their needs, no matter where they are.  HIVConnect stands to provide important – and potentially life-saving – information to thousands of Levi’s employees in the U.S. about HIV/AIDS, many of whom might have never had the opportunity or the motivation to seek these resources otherwise.

This is exactly the kind of leadership and initiative we need to be seeing in many, many more American companies.  A revitalization of the workplace HIV/AIDS effort is needed in the U.S. particularly when HIV resources are tight.  And ending AIDS requires we work across sectors to improve access to much needed services.   We are so proud to be working with a company like Levi’s that shares our vision of the end of AIDS in America, and that invests in the well-being of its employees.

This June, AIDS United stands with Levi’s and hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations around the country in proclaiming that 30 years of this epidemic is enough.  We must work even harder to bring about a new anniversary to actually celebrate: The End of HIV/AIDS.  HIV/AIDS is a winnable battle and you can help us win.  Take the test. Know your status.  Take control of your life.  Be well!

To read more about HIVConnect, click here to read “Unzipped,” the Levi Strauss & Co. blog

y when HIV resources are tight. And ending AIDS requires we work across sectors to improve access to much needed services. We are so proud to be working with a company like Levi’s that shares our vision of the end of AIDS in America, and that invests in the well-being of its employees.

This June, AIDS United stands with Levi’s and hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations around the country in proclaiming that 30 years of this epidemic is enough. We must work even harder to bring about a new anniversary to actually celebrate: The End of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is a winnable battle and you can help us win. Take the test. Know your status. Take control of your life. Be well!

To read more about HIVConnect, click here to read “Unzipped,” the Levi Strauss & Co. blog

30 Years of HIV/AIDS: How Many More?

by Mark Ishaug, President and CEO

This month, we mark the 30th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  On June 5, 1981 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published the first mention of what later is determined to be HIV.   During that first decade that followed, we stood on a precipice of doom.  More and more people were presenting with the disease, and then soon after were dying painful and horrifying deaths.   Doctors felt helpless, people were terrified, and the public was panicking.   Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was the clinical term used to describe the sudden cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma or pneumonia infection in previously healthy people.  But AIDS became the loaded term that struck fear into the hearts of humanity.

We certainly have come a long way since that June day 30 years ago.  The discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) – as well as the ways it is transmitted and the way it could be diagnosed – helped propel us forward with the knowledge of how to prevent the spread of the virus and ultimately how to treat it.   The discovery of antiretroviral (ARV) therapy and subsequent advances in that treatment helped shift the course of the disease, plummeting the number of AIDS-related deaths, saving countless lives and shifting HIV/AIDS from being a deadly disease to a chronic condition.

But make no mistake – despite numerous advances, HIV/AIDS is not over.  Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the United States becomes infected with the virus.  More than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. One in five of those people living with HIV is unaware of his or her infection.  And while the annual number of new HIV infections remains stable, the infection rate is still far too high, with an estimated 56,300 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.  HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect our nation’s most vulnerable populations: Communities of color (especially African-Americans); men who have sex with men (MSM); women; and low-income, poor and homeless individuals.  The epidemic continues to be driven by stigma, which has a significant impact on prevention and treatment efforts in those communities hardest hit by it.   More than 640,000 people living with HIV, many of whom know their status, are not in the care of an HIV-specializing medical provider.

In the last year alone leading up to this 30th anniversary, we’ve experienced both great hope and maddening frustration in our efforts to fight the epidemic.  The ban was lifted on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs, which have been proven to reduce transmission of HIV and other blood borne illnesses.  The White House released the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), which has given us the blueprint for a focused and coordinated response to America’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.  We’ve learned of promising new findings on vaccine research, microbicides and ARV treatment as prevention.  But we also have witnessed the explosion of waiting lists of people who need their life-saving HIV medications from state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP).  We’ve had to fight back the Draconian budget cuts to critical federal HIV/AIDS programs in the 2011 federal budget and are facing even bigger budget battles for 2012.

But this is no time to give up!  If fact, observing the 30th anniversary of AIDS can inspire us to work even harder to ensure that there are as few of these anniversaries left as possible.  We all have a role to play!

As individuals, we must educate ourselves about HIV/AIDS.  We must know our HIV status and get tested.  We must practice safer sex.  We must learn about local, state and federal public policy and programs that promote the health and well being of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.  We must communicate with our lawmakers and let them know that critical HIV/AIDS services are in need of funding.

As HIV/AIDS organizations, we must develop innovative ways to reach those who need us the most.  We must cultivate strategic collaborations with one another that help make our work more effective and efficient.  We must advocate for sound HIV/AIDS policy, for increased federal and state resources, and for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  We must fight for effective vaccines, microbicides,  and other promising prevention tools.

As private sector companies and philanthropists, we must increase investments in both innovation and evidence-based programs that support community-driven responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As Americans we must remember that HIV/AIDS is a preventable disease, and a winnable battle!  We must work together to create a new anniversary that will be cause for real celebration: the end of AIDS in America.

Playing Defense and Offense

by Mark Ishaug, President and CEO
AIDS United

Can you walk a tightrope while preparing for the fight of your life? Sometimes you simply have no choice. In just the last month, AIDS United has had to become even more politically agile while making ourselves programmatically stronger. While the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to rage on in our country, impacting our nation’s most vulnerable communities, we are working in overdrive to prevent devastating budget cuts that would dismantle health care reform, eliminate signatures programs like AmeriCorps and the Social Innovation Fund, and reinstate the ban on federally-funded syringe exchange programs. And the budget talks for FY 2012 are only just beginning to heat up.

Hundreds of millions of dollars for critical domestic HIV/AIDS programs are at risk at a time when we can afford no losses. More important, the lives of the people we serve are at risk. We must fight for the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We must step up our efforts to ensure the success of the National HIV/AIDS strategy. And we must develop new public-private partnerships that will help us reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and eliminate health disparities.

AIDS United is playing defense and offense, and maximizing all of our organizational strengths and skills to be the leanest, smartest and strongest asset we can be in the fight to end AIDS in America. We are adapting, changing, and honing every day.

  • At its first official meeting since becoming AIDS United, the Board of Trustees embarked on the development of a three-year strategic plan, which will align AIDS United’s goals with those of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
  • We unveiled a new Community Partnership model at the 2011 annual meeting, which will support community-based programs to (1) strengthen systems, (2) seed and measure innovation, and (3) organize and lead policy/advocacy efforts. We asked Community Partners to join with us in thinking even more creatively and strategically about how we might break down HIV/AIDS silos. We began to expand our ideas of how we can more effectively help the people we serve by focusing on the myriad of co-existing conditions that contribute to HIV’s transmission.
  • At the first Access to Care grantee convening, AIDS United mobilized grantees supported by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Walmart and the Social Innovation Fund, providing them with the educational and skills-building opportunities they need to advance successfully to the next phase of their respective projects. Grantees rolled up their sleeves for substantive, productive and sometimes difficult discussions about participant recruitment, evaluation, and fundraising.
  • AIDS United awarded $1.4 million dollars to 29 organizations to promote the development and expansion of local advocacy networks in nine Southern states – one of the regions in our country hardest hit by the epidemic.

So will we defend programs that work and save lives? Yes we will! Will we fight for new public and private resources for innovative, evidence-based projects? Absolutely! And will we succeed? We have no choice. And we can only do all this and more with you. So join us today! Donate to AIDS United, call your legislators, sign up for action alerts, friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. AIDS United, and people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, are counting on you.