Friday, May 04, 2012

Red Ribbon Thursday

PWA Camp Out Provides Social Opportunity

The LVL PWA Camp outs are for gay men living with HIV-AIDS. There is a mix of HIV positive and negative individuals who may be campers, volunteers, sponsors, partners of or friends of campers who are living with HIV-AIDS.
Tent CityThe camp out begins at Noon on Friday, May 11, 2012 and ends at Noon on Sunday, May 13, 2011. Volunteers who arrive on Thursday are expected to pitch in and help get the campground ready. Volunteers who stay over through Sunday night and Monday morning are expected to help clean up the campground after the camp out.
One thing that was never planned, but does occur at every camp out, are the friendships that are built. Every one, no matter what part Texas they are from, or what state they are from, all share the common bonds of being gay, gay friendly, and are living with HIV/AIDS — or are directly affected by HIV/AIDS, such as a partner or friend of a camper with HIV/AIDS. Being out in the country is very relaxing and sets people at ease.
Lunch ServedMany people are strangers at the start of the camp out but that quickly changes on its own. You can walk up to a couple of campers sitting at a picnic table and they are talking about what they felt like when they were diagnosed. Some may be sitting in front of a tent and comparing medications that they have been on over the years. A few campers walking down a trail may be talking about social services in their city. Another group may be reminiscing “the good old days”. It is very comforting to all at the campsite that “THEY” are not alone in their struggle with HIV/AIDS but they are a part of a bigger “WE”.  In October of 1993 Marvin Davis, (a.k.a., Lady Victoria Lust pictured with John in photo to the right), had gone to a camping event called Rosebud at the TCC Landsite. Marvin fell in love with the landsite and started plans so that others who were less fortunate would be able to get out into the “wilderness” and have some peaceful time away from their daily lives.
Marvin approached several people with the idea, and the LVL PWA camp outs were on their way to becoming a reality. TCC offered the landsite, free of charge, for the weekends needed. Through his networking and help from many TCC Member Clubs, commercial businesses such as bars, and many, many individuals thoughout Texas, the camp outs were fast became a reality.
The first LVL PWA camp out was held in September 1995. Two more followed, one in May and another in September of 1996. Marvin passed away suddenly several weeks after the last camp out. Marvin had been very active in the Houston Gay HIV/AIDS Community and was in the process of creating a charity organization of his own that was to be run by a hand-full of volunteers from the community. The Lady Victoria Lust Holiday Fund, sheltered by the Colt 45’s, became PWA Holiday Charities. Marvin lived long enough to see this organization receive its charter.

AIDS 2012: Bringing It Home

By Neil Giuliano, Chief Executive Officer, San Francisco AIDS Foundation

The AIDS 2012 Opening Session is less than three months away. Between now and then, we will continue to blog about the US government’s participation at the conference. We encourage you to also read blog posts from our non-federal colleagues. AIDS 2012 is a conference where we all come together — public, private, non-profits. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) has been a pioneer in using new media in response to HIV. Along with several other community and federal partners, SFAF is also working with to plan a satellite meeting about the role of new media in response to HIV/AIDS. We asked SFAF Executive Director Neil Giuliano to share his thoughts on AIDS 2012.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Exit Disclaimer marks its 30th year this month. The foundation was created in response to the community’s desperate need for facts at a time when our loved ones were sick and dying and we had nothing but questions. In the thirty years since Exit Disclaimer, we’ve been able to answer those questions and share life-saving knowledge about HIV infection and treatment. We’ve also learned that, to end HIV/AIDS, we must address factors that put people at risk in the first place, such as stigma and discrimination, substance use, poverty, and homelessness.
Neil GiulianoAt AIDS 2012, researchers, care providers, advocates, and community members will bring the International AIDS Conference back to the United States for the first time since 1990. I look forward to hearing about advances in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), gene therapy, vaccines, and other biomedical strategies that hold promise for curbing or even curing HIV. I also anticipate reports of new antiretroviral drugs to treat those already living—even aging—with the virus.
But I will be listening for something else, as well—for lessons I can take home to help the foundation’s clients and others we serve to:
  • Get tested. Factors that contribute to HIV risk also stand in the way of getting tested, and testing late means starting treatment late, after HIV has already damaged the immune system. It also means greater likelihood of transmission, especially during the early “acute infection” stage when virus levels are highest. I’ll be listening for news about ways to overcome barriers to testing and ensure that everyone knows their current HIV status.
  • Get into—and stay in—appropriate care. New antiretroviral treatment guidelines announced last month by the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that everyone diagnosed with HIV start antiretroviral treatment, regardless of CD4 count, to preserve immune function and to help prevent new transmissions. I hope to hear about strategies for connecting people with medical care and helping them stay engaged with their care providers.
  • Get the most out of their meds, both for HIV health and HIV prevention. Antiretroviral drugs can save lives and even prevent new infections—but only if people take them. I’ll be on the lookout for news about ways to help people get the most from their meds, including support strategies to help cope with HIV stigma, improve communication with medical providers, deal with problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, and overcome other obstacles to adherence.
Years of advocacy around condoms taught us what PrEP studies and other clinical trials are reiterating now: Treatment and prevention tools are only effective when people are able to use them effectively. The first messages around condoms for HIV prevention were developed by community members trying to protect themselves and their partners. Today, we must again tap our communities’ wisdom to make the most of the prevention and treatment tools we will hear about at AIDS 2012.
The response to HIV/AIDS began in the community. And that’s where we will end HIV/AIDS.

NBJC Commends Obama’s Endorsement of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act

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