JRI/NBGMAC Convene PrEP Training for Black Gay Men

January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

By: Charles Stephens, AIDS United Regional Organizer

The Justice Resource Institute (JRI), in partnership with the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC), convened a two-day speakers training in mid-December for black gay men focusing on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).  PrEP is the use of HIV medications to prevent an HIV infection.  The goal of the training was to create a network of black gay male leaders that will speak about PrEP in their communities and enhance the awareness and engagement of black gay men around PrEP.  I had the opportunity to participate in the training, which included participants representing a range of professional experiences, disciplines, ages, approaches to HIV prevention, and geographic locations.

The training included rigorous discussions about research ethics, barriers to implementing PrEP, the importance of research literacy, and cultural humility in connecting high-risk populations to PrEP.  Participants learned how to address community concerns, develop effective messaging, and talk about scientific terminology. Each of us had the opportunity to give mock presentations about PrEP.

We also learned more about iPrEx, which was the study that indicated the effectiveness of PrEP for men who have sex with men (MSM).  Robert Grant, who was the protocol chair for the iPrEx study, was also one of the presenters. We took the opportunity to ask him questions, and get his perspective on the development and execution of the study, in addition to learning more of his insights about PrEP.

As next steps, we were encouraged coordinate trainings in our respective communities for black gay men around PrEP. For some of us, this will also include educating our staff and colleagues to more effectively and strategically target our efforts to have the greatest possible impact. This training — and other similar activities — gives us a way forward in having greater parity not only in access, but also information.

World AIDS Day 2011 in Tulsa, OK

January 3, 2012 in AmeriCorps, Community Partnerships, HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, World AIDS Day

OttWorld AIDS Day was certainly a long one this year, as there were two events going on in Tulsa. Instead of picking one, Team Tulsa decided to do them both! First we attended Tulsa CARES’ annual World AIDS Day Symposium. Tulsa CARES is an HIV/AIDS organization that works with HIV-positive people living in poverty. Then we went to Tulsa’s World AIDS Day program and premiere of “We Were Here,” a documentary about the early days of AIDS epidemic in San Francisco and how the city responded.

At the symposium, we learned about issues from a wide variety of sources facing people living with HIV/AIDS  in Tulsa . The first presenter, Jim Ott, talked to us about the “rush to judgment” that we fight against in our work with HIV. Then we had a panel of health experts talk about current and promising medical advances, including new drugs and trials. It was very informative, especially hearing from our HIV-positive audience members and learning their health concerns.

harrisonAfter lunch, Dr. Timothy Harrison from the  US Department of Health and Human Services explained how the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was created and how it would affect Oklahoma. Christopher Grano from the Northern Colorado AIDS Project talked to us about taking stigma out of our prevention materials. Instead of using scare tactics that make people living with HIV seem evil, negligent, or dangerous, he wants us to put people first and have sex-positive prevention materials that focus on good behaviors (getting tested, wearing condoms, not discriminating against people with HIV, etc). Our last presenter asked us to be mindful of the ethics in how we share information about clients with other agencies. Even though sharing might be legal through releases or lack of laws, it might not be ethical. The whole program helped us professionally and personally and was a good reminder that we have the information and medications to end AIDS.

At the candlelight vigil, we had a chance to remember our co-workers, clients, and friends with HIV who have passed. Then we went inside the independent movie theater to listen to stories from Tulsa’s early response to the HIV epidemic. We had a lot of former AmeriCorps site supervisors and an AmeriCorps member from the first team talk about their experiences at the beginning of the epidemic and their hopes for the future. There were lots of people dying in Oklahoma at the beginning, and Ric Harrison, a former AmeriCorps member, was a part of a VNA hospice group that help ease the passing of Tulsans with AIDS. Janice Nicklas, our city supervisor, talked about founding TCAP, Tulsa Community AIDS Project, and Tulsa CARES. It was good for the AmeriCorps team to hear these stories of the beginning of the epidemic since none of us had been born during that time. Hearing all the stories and hopes for the future made us feel more committed to the cause. We’ve come a long way since the beginning of the epidemic, but there’s still a lot more to do!

Team Carolina | World AIDS Day

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On World AIDS Day, Team Carolina worked together to observe the impact of HIV and honor all those who have lost their lives to the pandemic. We were extremely grateful that so many organizations were honoring this day with community events, dance demonstrations, testing events, and university campus-wide shows. Due to the overwhelming amount of activities, Team Carolina members participated in their own host agency events as well as other community events. These events were located at North Carolina Central University, Shaw University, Veteran Affairs Medical Center of Durham, and the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, on both November 30th, and December 1st.

At Stephanie’s placement, the Durham Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center was holding a World AIDS Day celebration at the chapel. The celebration kicked off with a Congolese drum and chant led by Dr. Ken Wilson, a physician from the infectious disease department, and his friend Pline Mounezo with the Durham VA Choir accompanying them. After the upbeat start to rev up the audience’s energy, we welcomed three speakers. Stephanie started things off and shared her previous experiences with HIV in Vietnam, how that translated to her work currently in the VA, and how HIV is disproportionately affecting the South. Jessica Fulton, the psychology intern in the infectious disease department, spoke of the mental health and issues HIV positive patients face. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Goldstein, focused on HIV in women veterans and the importance of directing care and resources to this population. The chaplain, Carl Clark, gave closing to the ceremony through a moving vigil. With such a jam-packed program with enthusiastic speakers and performers, the program was very well received by the audience.

In addition, Partners in Caring, in collaboration with Duke University, participated in providing HIV testing to students at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC. While partnering with another advocacy organization, our team was able to test 45 university students. We also provided students with basic safe-sex education counseling, various educational pamphlets and brochures, and contraceptives. This initiative helped raise awareness and reduce the sigma around getting tested. The turnout was more than expected, but in our line of work, this is always an awesome thing.

Project SAFE is North Carolina Central University’s only HIV prevention organization. It  held its annual World AIDS Day event in the Miller Morgan Auditorium on NCCU’s campus. While Project SAFE put in many long hours to making this event happen, the event’s success could not have been achieved without the help of others. Several HIV agencies and organizations from the community came to set up informational tables to be viewed before the event. Furthermore, the event was held in collaboration with many other student organizations around campus. Each organization created some type of work to be shown or performed at the event, including skits, videos, and spoken word. Each performance helped to raise awareness about HIV and safer sex practices among students at NCCU. The event included a keynote speaker who was HIV positive to talk about his story and give the issue a human face. Over 300 students attended this event and free HIV/Syphilis testing was provided to those who were interested.

Josh represented the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina (AAS-C) on the planning committee and coordination of two events.  The first event was the Durham County World AIDS Day Celebration, which was a huge success!  Hundreds of community members turned out to check out exhibitors, participate in the Facing AIDS Campaign, get free HIV testing, eat delicious food, and view a program with amazing dancers, singers, artists, and speakers.  Some of the speakers included the founder of a local AIDS service organization, people living with HIV of all races, ethnicity, genders, languages, and ages, HIV case-workers and prevention educators.  Josh’s role was to recruit and coordinate volunteers throughout the program, and particularly a group of dedicated volunteers from the AAS-C AIDS Care Teams to help prepare and serve food to attendees.  The experience was incredibly empowering, with personal stories, a diverse crowd, Spanish-language performers, speakers, and translators, song, dance, and attendees and volunteers who are truly committed to helping those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  Josh also coordinated a food drive which resulted in loads of food items to be donated to the AAS-C’s food pantry.

Lastly, Josh, as an Associate Faith Ministries Coordinator in his AmeriCorps placement, put countless hours into planning a World AIDS Day Interfaith Worship Service in neighboring Raleigh, NC.  The beauty of this service was the diversity of faiths represented and contributing to the program.  This event showed that HIV/AIDS can be confronted from non-judgmental, multiple faith perspectives, and that people of faith and people of no faith community can come together to “Remember the Lost, Remember the Living, and Remember Those We Must Protect,” the motto of AAS-C.  In spite of being unable to attend the service due to dual obligations on the evening of World AIDS Day, Josh was particularly touched that his parents, both local Baptist ministers, affirmed him and his HIV-positive status, and accepted an invitation to read passages as a part of the Worship Service.  Nothing is more meaningful than one’s own parents moving towards a place of acceptance and affirmation and joining the fight for their son and every other person living with HIV/AIDS. These events were how we as AmeriCorps members move people to get up and ACT to fight HIV/AIDS.

Team NOLA on World AIDS Day 2011

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Throughout the week of Dec. 1, 2011, New Orleans joined other cities around the world in observing World AIDS Day– a time of remembrance and awareness.

On Nov. 30, Team NOLA volunteered at a screening of “The Other City”– a documentary about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C. Donations were collected at the door to support a project to make HIV Awareness license plates for Louisiana. Team NOLA helped to promote, set-up, run, and break-down the event.

On Dec. 1, Team NOLA participated in the Facing AIDS project. We walked around parts of New Orleans, asking people if they would like to have their pictures taken with a message about how they are Facing AIDS. We were pleasantly surprised by how many people agreed.

The first part of our mobile photo shoot took place in the French Quarter. Next we went to the AIDS memorial in Washington Square Park where the Louisiana Office of Public Health does a wreath-laying ceremony every year. The last part of our photo shoot took place in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans.

We took pictures of ordinary citizens as well as people who have been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS for many years. Everyone was given red ribbons and a flyer with our facebook page where they could access their photo later.

At night, at the request of the Office of Public Health, the lights on the Superdome were red in honor of World AIDS Day.

For other behind-the-scene shots, check out our facebook album!

Team NOLA: NO/AIDS Walk & Halloween 28

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NO/AIDS Walk

On September 25, 2011, Team NOLA joined hundreds of Louisianans in the 22nd annual NO/AIDS Walk. The NO/AIDS Walk is a fundraiser that benefits the NO/AIDS Task Force and other HIV/AIDS service organizations in Louisiana. It is one of the largest fundraising events for AIDS Service Organizations in Louisiana. This year the Walk raised over $180,000. Team NOLA is proud to have participated in this awesome event.

Registration started at 8 am, with the Walk kicking off at 10 AM. It was bright and sunny– perfect weather for a 5k stroll through Uptown New Orleans. It’s still pretty hot in New Orleans in the end of September, so within a few minutes we were sweating. But teams of volunteers provided us with water and encouragement along the way. At the end of the Walk, we were greeted with beautiful flowers and fresh bananas.

The Walk was attended by representatives from a lot of local businesses, universities, organizations, and non-profits as well as from several national corporations. Many of our co-workers were there. Everyone involved had a lot of enthusiasm and energy. It was fantastic to be a part of a huge, well-attended event that was for such an important cause.

Halloween 28

In honor of Make a Difference Day, part of Team NOLA volunteered at Halloween 28, a benefit ball for Project Lazarus. Project Lazarus has been providing housing and other services to people living with HIV/AIDS for 25+ years. Team NOLA had a lot of fun greeting guests who attended the fundraiser.

World AIDS Day in Detroit – Getting to Zero by Facing AIDS

December 20, 2011 in AIDS at 30, AmeriCorps, HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day in Detroit is a day that does not pass without recognition. Community events are found not just within the city, but across the state at universities, health departments and at the agencies where our AIDS United AmeriCorps m members serve. This year a new event looked to honor those efforts in a collaborative event that not only set high standards for the future but reinforced our ties with the past. World AIDS Day Detroit (WADD) set out with the goal of raising awareness, battling stigma and remembering where we have been. “Zero new infections, Zero AIDS-related deaths, Zero discrimination.” Getting to zero, a goal that sets the bar high yet seems to make sense and a goal that Team Detroit looks to back each and every day we head out to service.

Collaboration is strength. Organizers of World AIDS Day Detroit understood and capitalized on this fact. Wayne State University School of Medicine, The Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan, The World Federation of Hemophilia, community based organizations such as AIDS Partnership Michigan, Affirmations and Michigan AIDS Coalition and others from across the city of Detroit combined efforts and embarked on what became a truly remarkable event. Major highlights of the day included speaker Jeanne White-Ginder (the mother of Ryan White), the gathering of south east Michigan mayors and officials in an effort to educate and address issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, the screening of the documentary “Bad Blood,” and a NoH8 photo shoot. Members of the community flocked to the event and partner activities across the state were publicized through WADD as it acted as a hub for World AIDS Day information.

Team Detroit’s role in this event focused on facing stigma by joining in the efforts of AIDS.gov and its campaign “Facing AIDS.” The campaign addresses stigma and promotes HIV testing by “putting a face on AIDS.” Individuals or groups take a picture while holding up a sign stating how or why they are Facing AIDS; the photos are then highlighted on AIDS.gov with others from across the country. Our shoot was popular amongst the array of activities at the event and the emotions behind the messages show the strength and resolve of those battling HIV. From those in the new generation inheriting the fight, to the veterans who already left their mark and look to see it out to the end, to the people we serve in our community who depend on us, all of their messages give meaning to why we do what we do.

“I am Facing AIDS because of all the friends and clients I have lost.”

“We are Facing AIDS so nobody else has to surrender their loved ones to this disease.”

“We are Facing AIDS to build a stronger community.”

Messages like these are often drowned out by stigma’s shout. We must highlight the good in what we do, in who we work with and in why we do it. Allowing these thoughts, feelings and aspirations to go without mention is to allow defeat. The day we allow stigma to overtake our efforts is the day we all lose. The Facing AIDS campaign has grown over the years and Team Detroit was proud to once again take part and allow the community we serve and those we work with each day to have a voice and spread their message of hope and perseverance.

For more info on World AIDS Day Detroit – http://www.worldaidsdaydetroit.com/

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