New digs prove prosperous for South Dallas HIV agency

Posted on 10 May 2012 at 4:59pm

Executive director says Abounding Prosperity’s recently opened facility on MLK Boulevard serving as bridge between black, gay communities

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SETTLING IN  | Executive Director Kirk Myers is shown in the lobby of his organization’s new building. Abounding Prosperity is in the first year of a five-year Centers for Disease Control grant to expand testing among black, gay men ages 17 to 29. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

After recently moving into a new office on MLK Jr. Boulevard, Abounding Prosperity Executive Director Kirk Myers has seen his agency become a bridge between the black and gay communities.

Since 2005, the organization has been based in a house across the street from AIDS Arms’ Peabody Clinic.

Abounding Prosperity continues to operate that building as a community center. HIV testing is still done there. Groups meet there. And Myers accompanies people with a new HIV-positive diagnosis across the street to the AIDS Arms clinic to make sure they receive medical care.

“That relationship is quite positive,” AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said. “They have immediate access for linkage to care, either for the newly diagnosed or those lost to the system.”

She said that the goal between the two organizations is barrier-free delivery of service.

At Abounding Prosperity’s new building just a few blocks away, testing has begun even though there hasn’t been a grand opening yet.

“We’re planning to do several things to bring attention to what we do,” Myers said.

He said those who don’t identify as gay are more likely to come to the new building than to the old location for testing and evidence-based intervention counseling. One reason may be that the  Ophelia Center, a black women’s program, is based here too. Another is the building’s location on MLK, in the middle of the area’s business district.

“Male sex workers, the previously incarcerated — all come here,” Myers said.

While the group’s relationship with Peabody Clinic is close, Myers said Abounding Prosperity has begun developing relationships with other South Dallas healthcare clinics that treat HIV.

He said because of the stigma of AIDS that remains in the African-American community, some of his clients won’t seek treatment at Peabody.

In its testing program, Abounding Prosperity is getting an exceptionally high positive rate — 6.6 percent. And Myers believes many of the infections they’re finding aren’t new.

“We’re just bringing testing to the area,” he said.

The agency is in the first year of a five-year Centers for Disease Control grant to expand testing among targeted populations. Abounding Prosperity’s target is black, gay men ages 17 to 29.

One successful new program to target that group is Let’s Talk About Sex, a safer-sex party.

“We pay one person to host a party,” Myers said. “He invites his friends and we come in and do an educational party.”

He said it’s working, getting the message into different social networks.

Another program is Chat and Chew.

Two Chat and Chew groups have formed, one for men and one for trans women. They meet and discuss issues other than HIV. Politics is a common topic.

Evidence-based support groups aim for the target population using research showing what works specifically for black gay men. A group of 12 to 15 men participate in a seven-week series that addresses issues of spirituality, homophobia, family structure and attitudes about HIV.

Comprehensive Risk Counseling and Services is an intervention used for HIV-positive and high-risk HIV-negative men.

Myers said the group is looking at pre-exposure prophylaxis anti-retroviral therapy, known as PrEP, as a preventive measure for some of his clients. He listed a number of categories of his clients who might benefit including sero-discordant couples, sex workers or those not regularly practicing safer sex.

Dr. Cordell Adams has been a supporter of the agency since it opened. He believes the new location will help the group reach a broader audience and benefit more people.

“The area is loaded with different cultures,” Adams said. “The location will open the door for communication and invitation to see what they’re about.”

He said that Abounding Prosperity doesn’t  push any one agency. “They’re just there to help whoever needs help,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 11, 2012.

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