A Territory Away…

August 26, 2010 in Puerto Rico Direct Grantmaking

by Stephanie Cruse, NAF Program Associate

I was able to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico at the beginning of August to conduct site visits to a few NAF grantees through our direct prevention grantmaking portfolio there, as well as to attend a Johnson & Johnson grant ceremony with Kandy Ferree, NAF President and CEO. It was a fantastic opportunity to see our grantees’ work in action in addition to reading about their projects in our Washington office.



I spent Thursday visiting three grantees, each with very different prevention programs.  The first grantee was called PR Concra,(Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Research on AIDS). I met with Carlo, who is the peer educator for a program that we fund just outside of San Juan, near the University of Puerto Rico in an area called Rio Piedras. PR Concra is a center mainly for gay youth, and they provide HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services, as well as medical/dental/mental health services.

PR Concra is the only organization on the island to provide programming for young gay men. The project Carlo works on focuses on conducting outreach to young gay men via social networks, primarily Facebook. After joining the Facebook group, young men are invited to go to PR Concra to take an HIV test or receive services.

My next site visit was to an organization called ASPIRA, and I met with the Executive Director, Adalexis Rios and the peer educator for the program we fund, Lizbeth Rivera. The NAF-funded program is an HIV prevention intervention called Solo para Chicas, and Lizbeth travels to four different rural sites around the island giving the intervention to adolescent girls.  Two of the sites are actually on separate, smaller islands off the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. It’s hard to imagine, but these islands are even more remote and receive even less information and services than the island of Puerto Rico does.  In workshops, Lizbeth emphasizes self-esteem, trying to empower young women to feel comfortable with themselves and in their decision-making skills when it comes to their sexual health.

Iniciativa-Comunitaria's syringe exchange vending machine

The last visit was to Iniciativa Comunitaria, an organization that offers 13 programs in both prevention and direct care services.  NAF funds the Punto Fijo syringe exchange program through its Syringe Access Fund, and the syringe vending machine through our direct grantmaking program.  During this visit Kandy and I learned more about the vending machine which was introduced to the community in October 2009.  This project received quite a bit of international attention when it was implemented because it is the first of its kind in the Americas, so I was really excited to see it.  The justification for this project was that injection drug users (IDUs) couldn’t always make it to the syringe exchange room during business hours, so the vending machine is available 24/7 to those who have a token. They receive a packet from the machine which includes a clean syringe, needle, other necessary equipment and educational sheets on how to clean syringes/needles and HIV prevention.

I was so grateful to go on this trip because even though I had learned about the grantees’ projects here at NAF, being there and seeing the programs in action in the local context really opened my eyes.  There were a few main themes that I took away from my experiences in San Juan. The first is that all areas of Puerto Rico, but particularly rural areas outside of San Juan are in dire need of basic HIV/sexual health information. Secondly, stigma is a huge issue, and there is a lot of discrimination (sometimes violent) against gay or transgender individuals, as well as IDUs.  This results many times in lack of support systems, which push people even further into the margins, and can result in riskier behaviors, putting them at higher risk for HIV.

My last thought is that as “mainland” funders, we should be mindful of the context in which we make grants in Puerto Rico, and to really make an effort to understand how Puerto Rico’s territorial status affects relationships with the local and federal government, and with funders from the U.S. mainland.  I’ve had many conversations with our grantees, who express frustration that Puerto Rican community-based organizations often fall through the funding cracks, because they are considered internationally-based by many U.S. funders, but international funders consider them to be U.S.-based organizations.  Due to its unique status as a U.S. territory, Puerto Rican organizations are unfortunately not receiving adequate funding for the great need there.  I am proud that NAF has taken a leadership role and will be able to continue our funding in Puerto Rico and convince other potential stakeholders to invest in the many organizations that are doing a great amount of work with very few resources.

“You’ve Got to Help in Any Way, Form, or Fashion That You Can”

August 23, 2010 in Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts

Dr. Celia Maxwell

Dr. Celia Maxwell

by Celia J. Maxwell MD, FACP
Assistant Vice President, Health Sciences
Director, Women’s Health Institute
Howard University
Washington, D.C.

As a member of the Board of Trustees of the National AIDS Fund, I want to talk today about why the Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts campaign is so close to my heart, and why I think it is such an important initiative. The goal of this campaign is to raise money from and for communities of color so that they can support programs that fight HIV/AIDS in their respective communities.

I began my career as an infectious disease physician 27 years ago. This is when AIDS was known as the “gay cancer,” when physicians turned away patients out of fear, and people thought they could contract the disease from mosquito bites or from sharing the same swimming pool. Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of people with HIV/AIDS and have seen the disease transform from a fatal illness to a chronic disease. But, through it all, one case right at the beginning of my career stands out and is responsible for my commitment to eradicating this disease.

This was in the 1980s and my patient was a young 26-year-old woman of color. She had done everything “right” – gone to college, had a good education, and a good job. The only thing she did “wrong” was have unprotected sex with a man that she didn’t know was at risk. I remember, the patient was the child of older parents, who were in their seventies when I met them. By that time their daughter was comatose, and the father would sit beside his child’s tube-riddled body and weep. He couldn’t believe that this had happened to his baby girl. That was a watershed moment for me. I could never shake it… he was weeping because he didn’t know what else to do. This was his baby, he was supposed to save his baby, and she was dying. I never forgot that. The moment resonated because I have just one child, a daughter also. I could feel his helplessness, how easily that could have been me. I’ve had more than a thousand patients, but this one has stayed with me all these many years, and will probably stay with me till the day that I die. As a mother, as a parent, that was the moment when I said, “You know what, you’ve got to help in any way, form, or fashion that you can.”

Educating My Community, Preventing HIV

August 13, 2010 in Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts

Mary Lou Morenoby Mary Lou Moreno
Coordinator, Border AIDS Partnership, El Paso, TX
Member, National AIDS Fund Board of Trustees

I have been involved in working toward HIV/AIDS education and awareness for twenty years now, much of it focused on communities of color.  As a woman of color myself, I am honored to talk today about an initiative at the National AIDS Fund that is very close to my heart – “Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts.”   HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect communities of color in the United States so the goal of this campaign is to raise money from and for communities of color so that they can support programs that fight HIV/AIDS in their respective communities.

The Border AIDS Partnership is one such program that will have the opportunity to benefit from this initiative. Funds given to the Border AIDS partnership are directed toward HIV/AIDS education and prevention activities in El Paso, Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The groups we grant funding to are involved in a plethora of activities. They go out to schools and speak to young people during their health education periods to educate them about HIV/AIDS. They have a great website to raise awareness – they adopt all kinds of innovative measure to reach the youth.

Some of these groups are comprised of women volunteers, who go out to outlying regions, right to the homes of women who can’t really get out for these kinds of things. It’s really making a difference – educating those women, testing them for HIV at home itself … I think when you don’t have that much money and you are working in one of the poorest regions in the country, then you are forced to work harder and to be innovative. I mean, look at these women. They essentially took the concept of an Avon sales lady going to her customers’ houses to sell products, and they tweaked this model to suit their requirement – that of fighting HIV/AIDS.

We have 10-11 grantee programs, all of which are doing excellent work. One that stands out in my mind is a youth group – TAB-CARES. “TAB” stands for teen advisory board. It’s part of the University Medical Center of El Paso. They’re doing such a great job. All these young people are reaching out to other youth to help prevent behaviors that put them at risk of HIV infection.

I have witnessed many young people dying from AIDS – I was there and I saw them go. The multiple organizations I have mentioned today are working tirelessly to reach more people, to educate them, to raise awareness, and to tell our youth that if they’re going to have sex outside of marriage, then it is imperative to practice safe sex. With the added help from the “Every Life Matters, Every Dollar Counts” campaign, I feel confident that we will be able to continue working together to achieve our ultimate goal – the elimination of HIV/AIDS.

A Transformational Announcement

July 23, 2010 in President's Message

by Kandy Ferree
President and CEO
National AIDS Fund

NAF President and CEO Kandy Ferree

NAF President and CEO Kandy Ferree

Last week the National AIDS Fund received some transformational news. We learned we were one of 11 distinguished organizations to receive the first-ever Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grants, an initiative administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The Social Innovation Fund is a true public-private partnership and an example of how the Obama Administration is using new funding pools to support issues of national significance, carrying with it a requirement to leverage a 1:1 match at both the national and local grantee levels.

NAF has received a $3.6 million award that will enable us to expand the scope of our Access to Care initiative in support of innovative public-private partnerships to improve individual health outcomes and strengthen local services systems, connecting economically and socially marginalized individuals living with HIV to high quality supportive services and health care. The awards were officially announced yesterday at a press conference held by CNCS. For more information about the Social Innovation Fund and our fellow grantees, click here.

Corp logo

NAF’s SIF award serves as a pivotal follow-up to the May 13 meeting at the White House that addressed the role of public-private partnerships in the implementation of National HIV/AIDS Strategy. It is a call to action and invitation by the NAF and by the Obama Administration to have corporations, foundations and individuals join in helping the United States reach the “Increasing Access to Care” goals set in the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

NAF’s precedent-setting Access to Care Initiative was launched last year with generous support from Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Walmart Foundation. However it is critical that this leadership demonstrated by these two companies serve as a catalyst for the continued expansion of our SIF partnership network. This is a huge opportunity for the private sector, other philanthropic agencies and individuals to step up and help to create a country where new HIV infections are rare and where ALL people living with HIV/AIDS have access to high quality health care.

Our SIF award is a significant investment in our nation’s fight against HIV/AIDS. As the single largest award for HIV/AIDS made in decades by the federal government from new non-AIDS-specific funds, the award demonstrates the premium value placed by this Administration on the uniting of the public and private sectors to improve the life and health of our nation’s communities. These funds will enable the National AIDS Fund, in collaboration with current and new funding partners, to develop and enhance more evidence-based and innovative community-driven interventions that help to increase health literacy, remove barriers and get more people living with HIV access to primary health care and HIV specialty care.

You can become a partner in this historic opportunity to help people living with HIV/AIDS access the life-saving care they need? You can join in our efforts to make our SIF award go farther than we ever imagined, and help us honor our pledge to bring corporate, philanthropic and individual support together to fulfill the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s “Increasing Access to Care” priority. Becoming a partner is easy! Make your donation via the National AIDS Fund’s secure website form. Just click here.

7 HIV/AIDS Directors From NAF Community Partnership Network Selected for UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program

July 20, 2010 in Community Partnerships

Seven leaders of community-based HIV/AIDS organizations from the National AIDS Fund’s Community Partnership network have been selected to participate in the 2010 University of California Los Angeles(UCLA)/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program, taking place July 18 – 27, 2010 on the UCLA campus.

The UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program is a management development program exclusively for executive directors and leaders of community-based health care organizations. The program provides an intensive ten days of management and leadership development at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles, California. Participants are senior executives from community-based healthcare organizations, and engage in a rigorous but relevant curriculum that provides the requisite skills, knowledge and abilities to successfully manage their organizations. The program has graduated over 500 participants since its inception in 2002.

The selected NAF-affiliated leaders for the 2010 program head up organizations that receive funding from their respective National AIDS Fund Community Partnerships, and were nominated by key staff members at those Partnerships.

“The National AIDS Fund takes great pride in the fact that these selected participants in the Health Care Executive Program are part of the NAF Community Partnership network,” said National AIDS Fund President and CEO Kandy Ferree, who is a 2007 graduate of the program. The enthusiastic recommendations from their respective Community Partnerships demonstrate another way that the National AIDS Fund and its stakeholder organizations are helping to cultivate a bright new generation of HIV leaders, as we have done for 15 years with our AmeriCorps program.”

One HCEP participant, Kate Neary-Pounds, executive director of Health Outreach Prevention Education (H.O.P.E.) in Tulsa, OK, was herself a member the National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps team in Tulsa. She was enthusiastically nominated for HCEP by Tulsa Community AIDS Partnership director Janice Nicklas, who was also Neary-Pounds’ city supervisor when she was an AmeriCorps member.

“I am so excited for Kate,” said Nicklas.”She is just such an up and coming leader…..and a genuine caring person in addition to all her hard work associated with HIV prevention programs.”

Neary-Pounds is honored to have been nominated and selected to participate in HCEP.

“This experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity to better myself as a leader and manager, which will make my organization stronger,” she said. “Good leadership at H.O.P.E. trickles down to every direct service staff member, which equals better service for our clients. Good leadership also translates into long-term viability, creative service delivery, and funding success.”

Neary-Pounds believes that her experience as a NAF AmeriCorps member has been instrumental in her career choice and her professional development.

“Being a National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps member was my introduction into HIV/AIDS work, which has provided me a passion for social justice and a deep appreciation for diversity,” said Neary-Pounds. “AmeriCorps provided me experience, credibility, and a wonderful network that paved the way for my current role at H.O.P.E.
Community partnership-nominated HCEP participants range from “up and coming” leaders to seasoned professionals. Jo Bull, Chief Operating Officer of the Central Carolina Community Foundation and key staff for NAF’s Community Partnership in South Carolina nominated Carmen Julious, a woman with more than 20 years working in the HIV/AIDS community.

“Carmen has demonstrated outstanding talent in administrative/management as well as clinical services in health care and prevention,” said Bull. “She has a keen understanding of the needs of the populations served by her agency as evidenced by program development efforts, and engages in continuous self-evaluation and is constantly seeking to improve her talent and skill as a manager and administrator.”

Julious is looking forward to enhancing her already well-honed skills. “I have been fortunate to work in the HIV/AIDS field for over 20 years, serving in many capacities,” she said. “I believe that the program will help to make me a better leader by providing the opportunity to develop and expand my current skill set and gain new skills, gain access to a diverse network of leaders from different parts of the country, identify and utilize organizational models, and develop tools to strengthen organizational stability.”

Philip K. Goropoulos is President/CEO AIDS Community Alliance in Harrisburg, PA and was nominated by Rosemary Browne, the key staff person for NAF’s Community Partnership in Harrisburg, the AIDS Fund of South Central Pennsylvania. Goropoulos feels that his participation in HCEP comes at the perfect time in the growth of his agency.

“Over the next five years, AIDS Community Alliance will be entering an exciting time of growth and challenge,” Goropoulos said. “We’ll be exploring the use of its skills, experience and resources to address the health disparities experienced by vulnerable populations in the South Central Pennsylvania community. The UCLA/Johnson and Johnson Health Care Executive Program offers an excellent opportunity for me to network with and learn from peers in the field who are currently addressing many of these disparities and potentially working with some of the same target populations we will be working with in our community.”

One 2010 HCEP participant, Michelle Wetzel had a recent career change that led to her nomination for the HCEP. Wetzel spent 20 years in HIV/AIDS services, the last 10 of which were as a practicing legal aid attorney for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago’s HIV/AIDS Project, before being tapped to serve as Chief Executive Officer of Chicago’s Alexian Brothers AIDS Ministry/Bonaventure House. She was nominated for the HCEP by AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), a NAF Community Partnership that supports Wetzel’s organization through the NAF Challenge Grants program funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In her CEO position for just under a year, Wetzel is confident that the HCEP will have a significant impact on her leadership skills, and on the growth of her organization.

“My first year as CEO has been about learning the job,” Wetzel said. “I think I’m ready now to take on the bigger strategic planning for our organization and this program will help me hone the skills to do that. If I am a more effective leader by providing clear vision and direction, then our organization can continue to grow and serve more people in the community.”

It was AFC President and CEO Mark Ishaug who nominated Wetzel for the HCEP, who affirms his confidence in Wetzel’s leadership abilities as well as the growth that she and the organization will experience as a result of her participation.

“Michelle has the competence, communication skills, and vision to be a true leader,” said Ishaug. “Being a part of the HCEP will allow Michelle to network, gain the courage to make hard and important decisions and guide her organization in the future through financial difficulties facing non-profit organizations around the country.”
With such a strong talent pool being nominated by NAF Community Partnerships for HCEP, NAF President Kandy Ferree begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting looks forward to an even stronger network of Partnership grantee organizations. Ferree knows firsthand just how beneficial the program can be for both emerging and established HIV community leaders.

“HCEP is one of the most energizing and inspiring professional development opportunities I have ever had as an HIV organization director,” said Ferree. “It is encouraging to know that National AIDS Fund through its Community Partnerships can continue passing this torch to exceptional leaders, while building stronger, more efficient grantee organizations.”