GEN III Convening Informs and Inspires: A Grantee Perspective

January 4, 2011 in GENERATIONS

by Dafina Ward,
Project Coordinator, Alabama Community AIDS Fund and Beauty in Knowing
AIDS Alabama

AIDS Alabama received a GENERATIONS III grant to support Beauty in Knowing, an HIV prevention intervention originally created to target African-American women in a beauty salon setting.  Due to key research funded during the Formative Phase of the grant, the intervention has since transformed.  In its current incarnation Beauty in Knowing is a five session intervention targeting African-American women studying cosmetology.  Research revealed a number of potential challenges that could hinder the impact of a salon based intervention.  Key informant interviews with salon owners, staff and clients guided this transition to a program that targets stylists-in-training before they actually enter the profession.  Data collected through a survey of cosmetology students and focus groups at area cosmetology schools revealed that students were anxious to learn accurate information pertaining to sexual health and HIV that they could share with their clients—and also utilize in their personal decision making.

Prior to arriving at the convening in Boston, we were nervous about having to present our program to the other grantees, National AIDS Fund (now AIDS United) and Johnson & Johnson.  AIDS United provided us with a great template to utilize in developing our presentation, but we were still uncertain of what the response would be to this change in our program.  We could not identify any prior HIV prevention interventions that had been focused in a cosmetology school setting.  We were concerned that the funder might not be enthusiastic about funding an intervention that could be perceived as a “risk.”  However, we were pleasantly surprised when AIDS United and Johnson & Johnson reacted very positively to the changes.  The positive feedback and suggestions provided by both funders, as well as the other grantees, was invaluable.  We learned once again that GENERATIONS is not your typical funding opportunity.  The funders are not focused on replication of the same old programs, with little concern for innovation.  Rather we (i.e., grantees and funders collectively) are engaged in a team effort to reach women of color in new ways with consideration given to the unique needs and cultures of our respective communities.

The significant amount of time spent discussing each of the grantees’ programs was the highpoint of the convening.  It was a unique opportunity to attend a convening and become immersed in the work being done by other grantees.  It not only gave us insight into what is happening in HIV in other parts of the country, but also provided us with fresh ideas and approaches for implementation of our own intervention.  We also benefited greatly from the sessions that addressed the specific roles of the project managers and facilitators of our programs.  By dividing programs staff in this manner it allowed for each person to gain new perspective on their role during implementation.  I gained a new appreciation for my role as a program manager as it pertains to supporting program facilitators and making strategic decisions regarding program staffing.  Our program facilitator stated that the facilitator training at the convening reinforced the “ingredients” needed for facilitating sessions effectively, including being prepared for unforeseeable issues during sessions.

As we move forward, Beauty in Knowing will benefit greatly from everything gained at the convening.  We are currently developing Procedures and Protocol for program facilitators to assist them with issues that arise during sessions.  We are also adjusting some of our exercises to incorporate some of the creative approaches shared by other grantees.

GENERATIONS III is a unique opportunity that not only benefits the program funded, but greatly influences an organization’s approach to HIV prevention.  As a result of the standard set by GENERATIONS, our prevention staff is planning to implement regular facilitator trainings for all of our interventions.

World AIDS Day in Indianapolis!

in AmeriCorps

Team Indianapolis began its World AIDS Day on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) Campus. We interacted with students, telling them about our own AmeriCorps experiences. The students’ enthusiasm about AmeriCorps was truly encouraging. We also got the chance to speak with other HIV/AIDS-related agencies from around Indianapolis. It was a great time for networking and collaboration.

At the same time, the team staffed a table in the student center selling jewelry and crafts from the Imani Workshop. The workshop is a social enterprise in Western Kenya that teaches HIV positive women to make and sell high quality crafts. Due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, many of these women have a difficult time securing a job or accessing credit for a business loan. We had the honor of selling their beautiful goods to the students at IUPUI.

At the end of the day, the team attended a service at The Church Within dedicated to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Pieces of the Names Quilt were displayed as workers from the HIV arena spoke to the congregation about their experiences. The service concluded with song, a candle-lighting ceremony, and tying red ribbons on a wreath to commemorate those lost to the disease. After a busy day, this was a time of quiet contemplation for all of us. The ceremony was one that spoke of loss while still delivering a message of hope.
Overall, team Indy’s day was a broad reminder of past and present fights against HIV. Those lost to the disease inspire the work that is happening today. World AIDS Day is a powerful reminder of the battles still being fought in the United States and around the world.

World (of Chocolate) AIDS Day

December 22, 2010 in AmeriCorps

by Annie Vulpas

In honor of World AIDS Day, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago hosted its annual “World of Chocolate” event on December 2, 2010 at the Hilton Chicago.  Our AmeriCorps team was privileged to volunteer and attend the fantastic fiesta where guests tasted chocolate creations from over 30 of Chicago’s top caterers, restaurants and chocolatiers.  The event also included a light but tasty buffet, an open bar, a raffle, music, and plenty of dancing.

It was amazing to see how many people came out to support the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  Attendance for the event was tallied at 1700 with notable visits from Governor Pat Quinn and former White House Chief of Staff and Chicago Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel.  Most guests wore a splash of red commemorating those living with HIV and those who have died of AIDS.

As a team, we were responsible for cleaning up after the event which included taking down fake pine trees and fitting them into boxes, which proved to be quite the challenge.  We also assisted in cleaning up the volunteer room, stacking chairs and folding up tables.

The event was a blast.  It was refreshing to see how many people were aware of World AIDS Day and how much pleasure they took in supporting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.  It made us feel proud of the front line work we each do everyday to help educate and reach out to people who may be at risk for contracting the disease.  Seeing everyone out that night reminded us that, despite working independently at times, we’re not alone in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Chicago.

Hola Amigos!!! National Latino HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

December 21, 2010 in AmeriCorps

By Ashley Kirkpatrick

Team Indy participated in an annual health fair at a local community center for the Latino community. This was an opportunity for this community to receive health information along with free HIV testing and various STI testing. Although many did not attend,  the event stood as a statement for the community that there are stigmas in this community as others, and that it takes more than community health fairs to reach at-risk populations. Prevention and outreach is a laborious task and has to be done through creative methods.

Team Indy took those efforts to the street by displaying signs outside of the community center, encouraging the passing traffic to pull over and get tested.  In Indiana there are over 50,000 Latinos residing in this state and the Indiana State Department of Health reports that in 2008 there were almost 8,000 reported cases of  HIV/AIDS diagnosis.  Among these diagnosis almost 13 % of those cases are attributed to the Latino community, making it the second largest group of HIV incidences in Indiana behind African Americans. This suggests that some of the barriers that hinder prevention in the African American community could be the same among this population as well.  In observing the event it seems that language barriers would be the primary cause of lack of education and awareness in this community. We all enjoyed this educational experience and look forward to working more within this community to help bring awareness and prevention about HIV.

By Ashley Kirkpatrick

References:

Indiana Latino Institute.    http://www.indianalatino.com/english/press_release.asp

http://www.in.gov/isdh/files/Question_2(1).pdf

World AIDS Day: Carolina Style

in AmeriCorps

Team Carolina participated in three different events during World AIDS Day, as the demand was so high for our team. Certainly, we decided to participate in every event we were invited to.

Project SAFE members are all smiles at NCCU's World AIDS Day program

Firstly, several campus organizations at North Carolina Central University came together to hold a series of events in honor of World AIDS Day, concluding with a program on Wed., Dec. 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. entitled “NCCU Women Empowered Against HIV.” The event offered students entertainment, free refreshments, and free HIV/Syphilis testing. As the Senior Peer Educator/Mentor of Project Save a Fellow Eagle (Project SAFE), a student group of sexual health peer educators at NCCU, I wrote and directed two skits for members to perform at the program. The skits were intended to educate students about assessing their risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as the importance of HIV/STI testing. Knowing that Project SAFE’s performances potentially empowered students to take responsibility for their sexual health was both exciting and rewarding!

For the second part of the day, Team Carolina witnessed something truly amazing. One of our own, Susan Lou, organized THE World AIDS Day event at the VA hospital in Durham, NC. She spoke at length about the issues facing HIV+ patients and the need to enter them into care as soon as possible. Susan also had a chance to play the violin. She was accompanied by one of the VA Chaplains who knew how to play the piano. The audience was very moved by the performance. Even Susan’s supervisor shed a few tears. Team Carolina attended the event to support one of their own and help spread the awareness message.

The final event was held in the evening at the Hayti Heritage Center. It was the culmination of several stressful weeks full of planning, calling, arranging, ordering, etc. The event at the Hayti Heritage Center represented the largest World AIDS Day event in Durham, NC – with almost 250 individuals in attendance. Another member, Geoff Horsfield, took the lead at Hayti. He did an effective job at leading the team throughout the event. There were performances, awards, speeches, and testimonies. They all had a common theme: to end the fight against AIDS as soon as possible. Team members helped serve food and also aided in ushering. Testing was also taking place the entire evening; 3 dozen people got tested and became aware of their status! All in all, it was a meaningful and productive day for Team Carolina.

“Last Call for Truth” on World AIDS Day in New Mexico

in AmeriCorps

Team New Mexico at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe

In honor of World AIDS Day, Robert Sturm, Project Director of the New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership, with a collaborative of seven other agencies, sponsored two performances of “Last Call for Truth,” written and performed by the Push Pens. Team New Mexico volunteered at the performances, which also included a reception in remembrance of World AIDS Day. The performances were held at Warehouse 21 on December 3rd in Santa Fe, and also at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on December 4th in Albuquerque.

On Friday December 3rd, Team New Mexico volunteered at Warehouse 21 in Santa Fe. Warehouse 21 is a community center for youth which hosts visual and performance arts events, and also offers different programs for youth such as music production and lessons, painting and graffiti, and computer graphics and animation. Team New Mexico assisted with set up for both the reception and performance, and helped out as needed throughout the evening. Several agencies cosponsored and assisted with the planning for the events including Southwest CARE Center, a Santa Fe based HIV/AIDS clinic, and the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network, both organizations with Team New Mexico AmeriCorps volunteers.

“Last Call for Truth” is a hip hop opera written and performed by Dino Foxx and Manuel “Cros” Esquivel. Through a unique approach combining original hip hop, spoken word poetry, and theater, “Last Call“ relates the upbringing, struggles and friendship of two men, one gay and one straight, from the west side of San Antonio and the challenges they faced throughout their lives. Saturday’s performance featured a question-and-answer session with the performers and sparked discussion in the community surrounding many issues including sexuality, gender roles, religion, and drugs and alcohol among others. The event and the performance also helped to increase HIV awareness among the Hispanic LGBT community, a population that in New Mexico is more at risk for HIV/AIDS.