The King In Our Midst: Team D.C. @ The National Cathedral

February 3, 2012 in AmeriCorps, HIV/AIDS Awareness Days

Team DC MLK Day 1It was quite fitting that Team D.C. did its MLK Day of Service at the Washington National Cathedral.  Ironically, a few days before the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., he spoke at the Cathedral’s pulpit on March 31, 1968, which happened to be his final sermon.  The title of his sermon was titled, “Remaining awake through a great revolution.”  To us, this speaks volumes. Right now, the AIDS epidemic is going through many changes and breakthroughs as it works to establish an AIDS-free generation.  It is very important that we continue to fight the fight and “remain awake” throughout what is taking place!  Like Martin Luther King, Jr. it is important to stand boldly and confidently in the things that you believe in if you want change to take place!

Team D.C. members started off their day of service at Soka Gakkai Buddhist Cultural Center, collecting clothing that were dropped off for a clothing drive.  There, we sorted and bagged the clothing that was dropped off by members of the community.

Team DC MLK Day 2Later on in the day, the rest of the members walked over to the National Cathedral where we talked to high school scholars about the importance of doing community service, especially when applying to college.  Each of us went around and talked about the AmeriCorps and what we did at each of our agencies.  It was exciting to talk with these young people because just a few years ago, we were in their shoes.  It is always good to share insight with youth who want to make a difference in their communities!  From there, we joined forces with the high school scholars and split up into groups.  Some of our team helped with the food drive, some ushered for the ceremony that was taking place in honor of Dr. King, and some helped sort out donated books that would be going to different organizations around D.C. that lacked resources!

The ceremony started off with a processional where I.J., Nia and Ryan were chosen to carry the donated food, clothes, and books to the altar.  Following that, lots of great performances ensued.  Dancers and drummers, gospel choirs, and spoken word artists from all over D.C. performed to give tribute to the legacy of Dr. King.  Through music and dance, each performer brought in a different aspect of the city’s rich heritage.

No matter if you were raking leaves, serving food, or reconstructing homes throughout your city, each service project reflects Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s love for service which promotes and uplifts unity and peace in our communities.  Now we must ask ourselves, what can we do and what must be done to promote HIV/AIDS awareness while still uplifting and uniting the communities that are being overlooked and ignored by society?

Historic Numbers of Virginia HIV/AIDS Advocates Tell General Assembly to End ADAP Wait List Now!

in Policy/Advocacy

caressa cameronby Caressa Cameron, Regional Organizer, Mid-Atlantic Region

As the Mid-Atlantic regional organizer for AIDS United, I help to coordinate HIV/AIDS advocacy and organizing efforts throughout the region.  This week I had the pleasure of collaborating with Sue Roland of Virginia Organizations Responding to AIDS (VORA) to prepare advocates to tell their lawmakers to support Virginia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Record numbers of HIV/AIDS advocates came to Richmond this week urging lawmakers to end the state’s waiting list and allocate $1 million to ADAP.  Thanks to the leadership of VORA, more than 60 advocates hit the halls of the General Assembly telling lawmakers to make their lives a priority by funding ADAP. By the end of the day, the diverse group of advocates—people living with HIV/AIDS, their families, friends, and healthcare providers– spoke with representatives from 130 of the 140 offices in the House and Senate.

For some advocates, the event marked the very first time they were able to share their personal stories in a political setting.  As the advocates told lawmakers stories of how ADAP saved their lives, it was clear they were making an impact. The advocates helped members of the General Assembly understand how treatment is prevention, how investing in ADAP can save Virginia money by avoiding costly hospitalizations, and how ADAP keeps people living with HIV healthy so they can provide for themselves and their families.

However, the day was not without its painful reminders that HIV stigma persists. After disclosing their statuses and telling their stories, a few advocates faced legislative aides unwilling to shake their hands. Though disappointed by such behavior, the advocates pressed on, determined to get their message out. They reported never feeling more empowered. They were excited to return home with their new knowledge and experience to educate and mobilize their communities around ADAP.

It is not too late for the voices of Virginians to be heard! Constituents have until Valentine’s Day to tell Virginia lawmakers to allocate the $1 million needed to fully fund Virginia’s ADAP and ensure that no person living with HIV has to be put on a waiting list before receiving life-saving medications. If you are a Virginia resident and are interested in joining this advocacy effort, contact your legislator today! For more knowledge on Virginia’s ADAP, how you can get involved, or to find contact information for your legislators, please visit www.voraonline.org. Sue Rowland can be reach at info@voraonline.org.

To get involved with HIV/AIDS advocacy in the Mid-Atlantic Region (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) contact me at 202.404.4848 x.212/202.557.5904 or ccameron@aidsunited.org

World AIDS Day in New Mexico

February 2, 2012 in AmeriCorps, HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, World AIDS Day

On this day of worldwide recognition for those living with and those who have already passed from HIV/AIDS, not to mention increasing numbers of HIV infection rates  amongst younger people, Team New Mexico was able to collaborate with the New Mexico Department of Health and the University of New Mexico LGBTQ Resource Center in Albuquerque to provide HIV testing for all students. We split up to administer tests at three locations set up throughout the campus giving students multiple opportunities to get tested during the day - The Student Union Building, El Centro de la Raza (Student Affairs), and the LGBTQ Resource Center. The turnout was great being that the temperature was in the 20s, and wind gusts reached up to 44mph.

Two weeks later, the NMDOH returned for a ”Results Day.”  Out of the 33 tests administered on World AIDS Day, 20 results were given. The response to the event could not have been better.

Thank you, Friends

January 30, 2012 in President's Message

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

Marching to the beat on MLK: Team Chicago at COIP

January 18, 2012 in AmeriCorps

“Why is the issue of equality still so far from solution in America, a nation that professes itself to be democratic, inventive, hospitable to new ideas, rich, productive and awesomely powerful? …[The answer, is that], despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially. … [To solve the issue of equality, there must be] a revolution of values… .The whole structure of American life must be changed.” –“A Testament of Hope,” Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

This is an uncomfortable idea to meditate on after a successful day of service!  The immediate implication is that painting a wall is not a substantial step toward equality. It is even arguable that small acts of service like painting at a community organization are a part of the problem. They do not directly challenge the structure of American life, and can undermine this mission if upheld as the ideal model of service.

These are uncomfortable ideas to ponder, but it is necessary to do so if we are to honor Dr. King’s legacy: Yes, he had a Dream. Yes, we can call him a drum major for justice. We fall by the wayside, however, when we don’t work to make the dream a reality, or only sample the beat of his drum.

King’s imperative is relevant to Team Chicago’s service-work at Community Outreach Intervention Projects (COIP). COIP (est. 1986) is an outreach initiative located on Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood that serves substance users . The services COIP provides include: street outreach; syringe exchange; population-led research projects; counseling & testing for infectious diseases associated with substance use, including HIV; drug abuse & risk reduction counseling; and a program that enhances linkages to care for HIV positive women exiting jail.

TeamChicago_MLKDay_3-web

Painting the COIP office was an encouragement to staff working in ways that promote an anti-racist, economically & socially just society. Such encouragement is vital to the justice movement. Our service was not “insufficient”. Even still, we cannot ignore that painting walls is on par with advocating for the rights of PLWHA. So, what room is there for painting walls in King’s Dream? What does a distant act of service like this mean?

If we were to discount our time on the walls, we’d pigeon-hole service into the heroic, the non-quotidian. This is not what Dr. King called for. Instead, he asked us to practice service in every day life. Note his argument from Where Do We Go from Here?:

“Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook… . … When Negroes looked for… the realization of equality, they found that many of their white allies had quietly disappeared.” –”Where Do We Go from Here?”  Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

Though Dr. King specifically speaks on the years immediately after the Civil Rights Movement, his point is one not bound to this historical moment: It is not enough to do the large, made-for-TV acts of service. As service providers in the HIV field, it is not enough for us to care only about counseling and testing. We must care about the quotidian acts of service that keep the movement motivated, organized, together.

Painting walls at COIP is a show of support; a nod of affirmation. These are necessary and crucial to the continuation of the work. It is the practice needed to move from working for justice, to living for justice.

The Time Is Now

January 11, 2012 in Policy/Advocacy

photo of Ronald JohnsonAIDS United’s 2012 Policy Priorities

By Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, AIDS United

We are less than two weeks into 2012, and it is already shaping up to be a pivotal one for HIV/AIDS. The end of 2011 saw the scientific advances that gave us a real vision for an AIDS-free generation, but also saw the deplorable reinstatement of the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. The International AIDS Conference will be in Washington D.C. in July, smack dab in the middle of the Presidential election season.

We are in for a bumpy ride, and AIDS United fully intends to take a leadership role in steering the course of that ride. And part of steering that course will be to maximize our core strengths of national advocacy, regional organizing and strategic grantmaking to ensure sound HIV/AIDS policy that helps people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States access the life-saving prevention, care and treatment services that they need and deserve.

Our regional and national advocacy activities are informed by each other, are driven by our strategic plan, and are aligned with our programmatic work. With a particular focus on Black men who have sex with men, women of color, and the Southern region of the United States, we have prioritized our advocacy work to target the following areas in 2012: Budget and Appropriations, Evidence-Based Prevention, Ryan White Program Reauthorization, Voter Education, and Re-envisioning HIV/AIDS. Our activities for each priority area are outlined below. You can download a PDF document, which includes
several examples of AIDS United’s policy-focused programmatic initiatives by clicking here.

The time is now. Our priorities are outlined, our actions are clear. And we need YOU! To achieve our bold mission of ending the domestic HIV epidemic, we know it will take teamwork. Teamwork to educate lawmakers. Teamwork to organize people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Teamwork to help give the HIV/AIDS community the increasingly louder voice it will need to end the epidemic. By joining with AIDS United, you demonstrate your commitment, provide critical insight, and, most importantly, amplify our voice as we fight the setbacks and push forward on scientific advances. As an advocate or a policy partner with AIDS United, you will help us zero in our 2012 policy priorities, and end the AIDS epidemic in the United States.

Budget and Appropriations

  • We will advocate for a balanced approach to deficit reduction in the implementation of the Budget Control Act.
  • We will ensure that the budget and appropriations process and efforts to reduce the federal deficit are responsive to the goals of the National
    HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and health care reform, and to the needs of vulnerable populations.
  • We will advocate for adequate funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (which includes the Social Innovation
    Fund and AmeriCorps)

Evidence-Based Prevention

  • We will promote policies to reduce new HIV infections through a combination of behavioral, biomedical, and structural strategies.
  • We will advocate for lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs.
  • We will ensure that biomedical prevention interventions that use anti-retroviral strategies (Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), vaginal and rectal microbicides, and treatment as prevention) in combination with
    primary prevention activities are researched as viable, endorsable strategies for preventing transmission of HIV among populations most at risk for acquiring the virus.

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Reauthorization

  • We will strengthen the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program as a transition to full implementation of health care reform.
  • We will ensure that the Ryan White program continues as a safety net for people living with HIV who remain uninsured or underinsured.
  • We will lead the charge for community consensus on a reauthorization package for the Ryan White Program in 2013.

Voter Education

  • We will promote voter education and participation for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the 2012 elections.
  • We will educate voters by developing and distributing voter toolkits and guidelines about candidate positions on issues that
    impact the response to HIV/AIDS.
  • We will have a leadership presence at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to ensure visibility of HIV/AIDS in
    candidate platforms.

Re-envisioning HIV/AIDS

  • We will advocate for policies that reposition HIV/AIDS prevention and care in the context of prevention and management of other chronic diseases
    and co-morbidities of HIV.
  • We will ensure that states’ Essential Health Benefits packages meet the medical needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • We will promote coordination with other chronic diseases and co-morbidities of HIV through the Health Care Reform Partnership Project.

Additional Policy Initiatives

We will also commit to playing a strong supportive and partnering role for other HIV/AIDS-related policies, and advocate for:

  • Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the national and state levels.
  • Other policies that increase access to, and retention in, care for people who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
  • Funding for domestic programs for structural HIV prevention interventions and HIV/AIDS research.
  • Policies that decrease HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination towards PLWHAs. Particular focus on repealing and opposing laws that reinforce stigma by criminalizing HIV.
  • A more coordinated global and national response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Particular emphasis on:
    • Promoting visibility of the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic at the 2012 International Conference on AIDS.
    • Ensuring policies that support and strengthen the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, with particular focus on coordination among federal agencies, expansion of the twelve cities initiative, and improved coordination in low-prevalence areas.
    • Increasing U.S. leadership on policies and funding that address global HIV/AIDS.

    Click here for the AIDS United 2012 Policy Priorities document.

    Click here to learn more about becoming an AIDS United Policy Partner.