26NovThe conceptualization of World AIDS Day in 1987 can be credited to two World Health Organization (WHO) journalists, Jim Bunn and Thomas Netter, who provided coverage on the AIDS epidemic after HIV was identified in 1984. Both the opportunity to connect with people living with HIV and AIDS and the heavy knowledge that the majority of them passed away soon after being interviewed took an emotional toll on the journalists, but also motivated them to want to do more. In an interview with TIME magazine, Bunn shared that they had been reading excerpts from a speech by WHO general director calling for global mobilization and recounted the specific moment when he said, “‘We need a day!’ We looked at each other … then jumped up out of our chairs and started brainstorming on whiteboards, activities, strategies, the date”. According to Bunn, setting the date was the easy part as December 1st was the perfect window between U.S. elections and the beginning of the Christmas season. They took their ideas for organization, raising awareness, and messaging to Dr. Johnathan Mann, the director of the Global Program on AIDS and so the first established global health day, World AIDS Day, was launched on December 1st, 1988. The designated theme was “Communication.” This year marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, with the theme “Know Your Status.” It is interesting to note that the themes of each World AIDS Day have tended to reflect significant periods in the work to end the epidemic, challenges encountered in dealing with it, and current events. The national and international events of 2018 have created momentum and opportunities for individuals and communities wanting to be engaged, have a voice, and collectively participate in doing more. According to Dr. Andrew Spieldenner, who writes for POZ, “The biggest gains in the HIV epidemic have been due to community movements.” Informed involvement in any capacity is powerful. The opportunity to show up and contribute meaningfully is empowering. [one_half] On World AIDS Day this year, the theme, “Know Your Status” is relevant to everyone. Normalizing and encouraging the decision to get tested is essential to emphasize and turn into an action step for anyone, regardless of living with HIV or not. You may find yourself asking, “Why should I be tested?” or “How can getting tested make any sort of impact?” By participating in an HIV test, not only do you become more informed, you also can become a powerful voice to speak of your experience to others within your scope of influence. By helping to promote and destigmatize testing, you are able to make an impact on others who might be encouraged to know their status because you are willing to share and engage with them on the topic. According to the UNAIDS Data 2018 report, there were an estimated 36.9 million people with HIV around the world in 2017. For these individuals and their support systems, knowledge and remaining engaged is a powerful way to promote awareness within their scope of influence. According to the CDC, people living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV. Medication adherence and engagement in medical care are key ways that people living with HIV can know their status, celebrate that undetectable = untransmittable (U=U), and “affirm that in 2018 living with HIV does not prevent them from loving, contributing and creating a greater world for future generations.” Each year, regardless of the designated theme or current events, World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember the past and honor the memory of those who we have lost to HIV, shed light on the stigma that surrounds HIV, call for awareness and education, and support those currently living with HIV. In an interview with NPR, Bunn said, “The fact that there's conversation occurs on an annual basis on World AIDS Day is significant.” Having a designated day will always be necessary to intentionally create a space for mindful acknowledgement, collective remembrance, and strength that only comes from feeling united with others towards a cause that is bigger than ourselves. This year’s call to action centers on the power and accessibility of knowledge. Knowing your status and engaging with others on this topic to the extent that you feel comfortable is helpful. This World AIDS Day, make it a point to talk to someone in your life about the importance of testing, being informed, and engaging in care so that the collective knowledge we share can unite us in our mission toward a future that is HIV and AIDS free. [/one_half] [one_half last="yes"] [/one_half] [ss_gap height="30"]
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.
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.
30AugThe 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. 27Aug
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.
5JunHIV 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.
#ItIsStillNotOverThe 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 HIVDespite 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.
Lacie Tewes is the Prevention and Supportive Services Supervisor in Lincoln for Nebraska AIDS Project.