News

STARTJanuary 2013
  • Executive Director chats on KIOS

    Executive Director, Brent Koster chatted with Mike Hogan on "Live & Local" this morning to talk about the important work Nebraska AIDS Project does, and the event of the year, Night of a Thousand Stars!

    This year's event is held on Saturday, November 17th, with the theme Hooray for Hollywood. The evening will be filled with cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, silent auction, and raising money for Nebraska AIDS Project.

    Listen to the interview here on KIOS, 91.5's website.


    Every year Nebraska AIDS Project recognizes a community member who has gone above and beyond to advocate and education about HIV and AIDS in our community.

    The 2018 Shining Star Recipient, Erin Share Fulton has been making a difference in the Omaha community by volunteering as a Certified Testing Counselor with NAP since 2014. Erin believes that by sharing her story, she will be get others #ThinkingTalkingTesting.

    Read more about Erin, on the blog here.

    To join Honorary Chairs, Rick Clark & Tommy Wolf at the event on Saturday, November 17th, purchase tickets here.  General admission tickets are available until November 17th at noon. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

    12Nov
  • Night of a Thousand Stars 2018 – Shining Star Recipient

    Nebraska AIDS Project is pleased to announce our 2018 Shining Star Recipient, Erin Shafer Fulton.[ss_gap height="30"]

    Every year, Nebraska AIDS Project recognizes a community member who has gone above and beyond to advocate and educate about HIV and AIDS in our community. This year’s Shining Star Award winner is Erin Shafer Fulton. It has been an honor and privilege to know and work with Erin. Her work advocating for HIV testing and prevention has made a huge difference for the Omaha community and, especially, the work in HIV and AIDS.
    Nebraska AIDS Project was founded in a time of great uncertainty - at a time when the President refused to even utter the word "AIDS". No one knew how things would play out, but courageous people knew that, in the face of impossible odds, they had to do something. It's because of those people that we have places like NAP today. They made what seemed impossible possible.

    [ss_gap height="30"]Erin Shafer Fulton is a passionate person working fiercely to stop the stigma of HIV and AIDS. She is married to her husband Troy of 9 years. Erin is a mother and bonus mom to 4 children, Ashley (17), Charlotte (8), Michael (16) and Kaylee (21). Erin is celebrating living with HIV for 25 years. She believes that adherence to her antiretroviral medication, healthy lifestyle and her positive outlook contribute to her success. Erin graduated from Bellevue West High School after she was diagnosed in 1994. She attended Cape Cod Community College and Metropolitan Community College. Erin has worked as a Financial Advisor since 2007. Erin decided to make a difference in the Omaha community by volunteering as a Certified Testing Counselor at NAP in 2014. Recently, Erin competed as Mrs. Douglas County for Mrs. Nebraska and won the Mrs. Congeniality Award and The Patty Steele Lifetime Achievement Award. Erin believes that by sharing her story she will get others #ThinkingTalkingTesting.

    We congratulate Erin in all of her hard work to help end HIV/AIDS and we look forward to formally recognizing her efforts at Night of A Thousand Stars – Hooray for Hollywood on November 17, 2018.  Purchase tickets here.

    Volunteers are still needed for Night of A Thousand Stars. We are looking for volunteers for set-up, tear-down, and during the event. And, all volunteers will receive 1 General Admission Ticket to the event! To volunteer, please fill out the Volunteer Registration Form. If you have any questions about volunteering, please contact Mitch at 402-552-9260 x 116.

    11Oct
  • Nebraska AIDS Project Names New Executive Director

    The Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP) is proud to welcome Brent Koster into the role of Executive Director for the organization. Koster fills a role recently vacated by the departure of Interim Executive Director, London Woolman. Koster brings more than 15 years of non-profit experience to NAP, including more than 13 years with Goodwill Industries, Inc., in Omaha, Nebraska. He most recently served as the Vice President of Mission Advancement. He also has five years of case management experience that positions him well to understand and advance the many services NAP staff provides to clients across Nebraska, southwest Iowa and beyond. “The Nebraska AIDS Project Board is pleased that Brent Koster has accepted this new challenge at a time when NAP is in the process of implementing a new strategic plan,” said Jason Coleman, PhD, President of the Nebraska AIDS Project Board and Director of the School of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “His long-time experiences in the non-profit world makes him well suited for this role with NAP.” “I am excited to be with an organization that I can really believe in and help support the mission,” Koster said. “This is a critical juncture for NAP as we try to advance the strategic plan the board and leadership developed. In addition, our major annual event, Night of a Thousand Stars, is coming up and it’s going to build upon the success and excitement of last year, so we’re in full planning for that.” Koster has been in Omaha since 2003, relocating from Seattle, and is a member of the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands 2018 Executive Institute. He and his wife, Chelsey, have two daughters. The family is passionate about involvement in the community, with Chelsey being a past volunteer with NAP. Dr. Coleman added, “The board is grateful to London for her years of service and dedication to our mission, clients and the NAP team, especially during this transition. We wish London the best in her next chapter.” Koster began his role as executive director on Tuesday, Aug. 14.
    30Aug
  • HIV and the Faith Community

    August 27th is National Faith HIV Awareness Day


    When I think of church, I think of what it has meant to me during the course of my lifetime, and often, what it has not provided me.  The church has always been a place where I can go to sing, praise, and grow closer to God. Traditionally those are some of the more basic functions of the church in the present day. However, I feel historically the church has failed to address matters outside of spirituality, with the exception of a handful of churches here in the Omaha Metro. It has always been a belief that the church should be concerned not only with the spiritual aspect but rather the whole person; whether it is mental, physical or emotional. The well-being of the people who rely on the church SHOULD be a priority, but is often ignored.

     

    If I could meet MY community where they are, then I could change the dynamic and the culture around African Americans and testing.

     

    Kingdom Builders Christian Center, while not an old church by any means (being only 9 years old), has dedicated part of its mission to ministering to the whole person.  Kingdom Builders Christian Center, founded by Pastor Darryl Brown Jr. and 22 founding members, has dedicated itself to its community.  Earlier this Spring when I met with Pastor Brown, he expressed nothing but excitement when I told him I wanted to offer HIV and STD testing in the church. I knew this would not be an easy feat, but it was my hope that through my testing efforts that if I could meet MY community where they are, then I could change the dynamic and the culture around African Americans and testing.  In my talks with Pastor Brown he expressed his excitement and that such a service was necessary to follow the commandment of Jesus and fulfill the mandate of the church.  He further added, “the church has a duty to the community to provide knowledge and promote/start the healing process.”

    Reception to Kingdom Builders and the HIV testing program has been positively received by the community. It is our hope that we can continue to move forward with this partnership and encourage others within the faith-based community to be open minded with this form of outreach, in order to meet the needs of people living with HIV, who are often forgotten. The partnership between NAP is becoming a vital resource.  As time passes, we have no doubt this collaboration will continue to grow. We hope to increase community knowledge in a space that has the ability to make great strides with HIV and AIDS awareness.

     

    Free HIV testing is available at Kingdom Builders Christian Center (4039 Charles Street, South Entrance, Omaha), starting in September, every Tuesday from 4:00-7:00 pm, by appointment or walk-in. Call or text Tommy for more information at 402-327-1367.


    Tommy is a Prevention & Outreach Specialist in Omaha for Nebraska AIDS Project.

    27Aug
  • HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

    HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day is held every year on June 5th.  This year's commemoration marks the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting on June 5th, 1981 about five cases of rare pneumonia affecting young, gay men living in New York and California. This was later to be defined as the beginning of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Today, 26% of all 1.4 million people living with HIV in the U.S. became positive before 1996, meaning they are long-term survivors. HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day is a day to acknowledge the unique barriers and commit to providing ongoing support to those who have been living with HIV for 25-plus years.

    #ItIsStillNotOver

    The 2018 theme is “HIV It Is (Still) Not Over” because communities are focused on goals of ending AIDS and prevention, which leaves those living the longest with HIV feeling left behind. While taking strides to end AIDS must happen, we must take care of the needs of those who have lived with HIV for 25-plus years. Those who have lived with HIV for decades can describe the psychosocial complications they face. We can imagine the trauma of receiving an HIV diagnosis before one had access to life-saving antiretroviral treatments (ART). We can imagine the stigmatized identities, rejections, criminalization that those who are living with HIV have faced over the last 30 years. We can imagine the physical pains those who entered human drug trials in real time, taking a harmful treatment of AZT just to stay alive. L., a woman diagnosed in July 1987 describes, “No one talked about it. Even my boyfriend who gave it to me--we never talked about it. No one was telling women to get tested. I remember seeing a commercial in the 80s when living in California, telling gay men and drug users to get tested for AIDS and I remember thinking to myself 'I wonder if that means me, too.’ It wasn't really a shock when I heard I had HIV--but waiting two and a half weeks to find out was rough."

    Living with HIV

    Despite this historical trauma and stigma, those living with HIV are resilient. C., a man diagnosed in 1994, reports that the invention of ART medications was life-changing, “I felt like I’ve been given a second chance in life. That’s where all my positivity comes from. It’s been 24 years, almost a quarter century and I have so many friends and family who have been supportive.” Remarking about the change in perception about HIV over the years, “people are so much easier to accept me now, they don’t bat an eye when I tell them I’m living with HIV. The key word there is living with HIV.” L., also describes positivity, “I've met a lot of great people as a result of being a long-term survivor. The best thing has been seeing more acceptance as the landscape has changed. I've told a lot of people and most everyone has been accepting. I don't allow them not to be. The worst part of being Poz has been losing my daughter to complications. I try to keep such a positive and upbeat attitude. Like anyone, I've been through a lot of crap." In closing, I leave you with the 2018 HIV Long-term Survivors Day (HLTSAD) goals:
    • HIV and aging are complex and nuanced. HIV Long-term Survivors are aging but constitute a distinct cohort of different medical and psychological challenges including AIDS Survivor Syndrome, poverty, isolation, and invisibility.
    • In our haste to End AIDS prioritize the 2018 modern-day needs of HIV Long-term Survivors.
    • Survivors are a valuable part of our communities we need to empower them to become the elders, leaders, and teachers.
    • Celebrating HIV Long-term Survivors for enduring a historically unique epidemic and being the pioneers of the AIDS pandemic.
    • Prioritize HIV Long-term Survivors culturally-aware healthcare and mental health.
    • Move beyond survival, the goal is aging well with HIV.
    • Honoring resilience and strength, it took to survive multiple casualties and unprocessed grief while planning to die.
      [one_fourth] #ItIsStillNotOver [/one_fourth] [one_fourth] #HIV [/one_fourth] [one_fourth] #LongTermSurvivors [/one_fourth] [one_fourth last="yes"] #HLTAD2018 [/one_fourth]      

    Lacie Tewes is the Prevention and Supportive Services Supervisor in Lincoln for Nebraska AIDS Project.

    5Jun
  • On the Importance of Peer Support

    One of the things I hear most often from clients is that HIV is an isolating disease. Some clients say they lack a strong support system, especially those who live in smaller rural communities. Often, I wish I could tell them they are not alone, that HIV exists in every community on this planet, but it is little consolation when others are too stigmatized to emerge and create those meaningful peer connections. That is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face—how to help those living with HIV make meaningful connections with other positive people. Since I began my career at NAP as an intern in 2014, I have had countless opportunities to mix academic scholarship with my daily work with those living with HIV. Every opportunity I could use NAP as a model for a course project, I leapt at the chance to provide awareness about what we do at Nebraska AIDS Project and to improve the quality of services we provide to those who need them. With this “work smarter, not harder” approach, it should come as no surprise that I spent over a year of my graduate program studying the effects of peer support on people living with HIV. It is one of my deepest passions—to advocate for programming that utilizes evidence-based approaches like peer support. Peer support is an intervention strategy designed to increase adherence among HIV positive persons. These are different than support groups as peer support is designed for one-on-one audiences.  Peer support models were initially designed to help those who struggle taking their medications and keeping their doctor appointments but has since been used in a variety of other areas of HIV care. Peer support is perhaps one of the most powerful and underused interventions we in public health have in our toolbox. And I would guess largely underused as so many AIDS Service Organizations have seen a decline in their positive peer volunteers and little capacity to offer a formalized training to those peer mentors. Some of you may remember years ago when NAP had a “buddy program.” I am reminded of the buddy program often by our longtime clients who miss the relationships they had one on one. While the buddy program didn’t pair two positive people together, it did provide a key element that is often overlooked in doctor offices and exam rooms: identifying at least one person who could support them in their HIV health journey. Many clients remind me how much they loved having the one-on-one informal support that came from a volunteer, rather than a paid staff person. It is my hope that someday participants throughout our community will feel called to action to share their talents and gifts as HIV positive persons to help those in need of additional peer support. And that’s only one part of the hurdles we face to implement this needed programming. Much of the larger issue is the stigma and shame we’ve been working to eradicate since the beginning of HIV. And if anyone reading this has the solution for how to destroy stigma, I’m all ears. Many HIV programs throughout the country recognize how important peer connections are in keeping those living with HIV healthy and engaged in care. There are designed curriculums to teach HIV positive peers how to mentor one another. Most programs rely on seasoned survivors to take newly diagnosed peers under their wing and accompany them to doctor visits, explain lab draws and results and educate them on the importance of taking medications every day. A physician will also provide this information, but as research has demonstrated, having this information explained by a peer has a much more impactful and lasting effect on that person’s health literacy. For my final graduation research project, I chose to survey people living with HIV in Iowa and assess their interest in peer support. Overwhelmingly, I heard “Yes, I’d definitely be interested!” Perhaps one participant said it best: “I think peer support programs are critical to the stability and well-being of those living with HIV/AIDS.” I couldn’t agree more with him. Living with HIV provides a wealth of knowledge and experience that patients won’t find in a pamphlet or from watching a movie. The most powerful tool professionals can provide to those living with HIV is the power of peer connections and providing the opportunity to foster those relationships. I would encourage you to take a moment out of your day and think about the peer support you have in your life, perhaps even send those peers a note of thanks for being a support to you. Maybe the tie that bonds you two together is not an HIV diagnosis, but knowing you have someone who understands what you’re going through and is there to lift you up and encourage you can make all the difference. Brittany is a Southwest Iowa Case Manager for the Nebraska AIDS Project in Omaha, serving 11 counties in Southwest Iowa.
    31May
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