Top 10: N. Texas helped mark AIDS anniversary

AIDSat30

HOLDING VIGIL | Hundreds gathered for a commemoration in downtown Dallas on World AIDS Day.

No. 5

In 2011, the world marked three decades of AIDS. It was June 5, 1981, that the Centers for Disease Control first reported on five cases in which otherwise healthy young men, all gay, had been treated for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at three separate Los Angeles hospitals since the previous October, with two of them dying of the disease. A month later, on July 4, the CDC reported on 26 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, again all in gay men, within the previous 30 months, with eight of the patients having died. As scientists struggled to find the cause, the plague became known as GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency syndrome.

But it wasn’t until a year later — on June 27, 1982 — that the term AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, was coined. Human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — wouldn’t be discovered until 1983 by Institut Pasteur in France, and it was identified as the cause of AIDS by Dr. Robert Gallo in the U.S.

By 2011, more than 25 million people worldwide had died of AIDS, and new infections continue, with men who have sex with men once again leading in terms of new infections, according to the CDC.

Despite the frightening infection rates, federal funding for HIV/AIDS services is dwindling, with community-based AIDS service organizations struggling to find new ways to raise money, offer services and educate the public. One North Texas organization, AIDS Resources of Rural Texas based in Weatherford, announced in July that it could no longer keep its head above water and would be closing its doors as of Sept. 1.

Most clients who had been accessing services at ARRT were absorbed by the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, where Executive Director Allan Gould pledged to continue to provide services to its growing client base, despite increasing cuts in federal and state funds.

In late September, AOC announced its intention to partner with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles, to open an AIDS clinic in 2012. On World AIDS Day, AHF officials and basketball legend Magic Johnson announced that the planned AOC clinic would be one of three Magic Johnson clinics opening in the next year.

Observances of the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic worldwide began in early 2011, while in North Texas, the first such commemoration came in late June when Dallas Voice and a host of partner organizations and business presented a public forum focusing on the status of HIV treatments today. On July 1, Dallas Voice published a special issue, AIDS@30, focusing on current treatments, research and education efforts, as well as profiles on individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS service organizations joined together for World AIDS Day commemorations on Dec. 1, including a display of panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in downtown Dallas, and on Dec. 6, Charles Santos spearheaded The Gathering, an unprecedented collaboration of performing artists from around North Texas who donated their time to a performance at The Winspear Opera House. About 1,000 people attended the event, which raised more than $60,000 for local AIDS service organizations.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

As funding cuts loom, LifeWalk helps fill the gaps

Walkers can register themselves — and their dogs — online to participate in the 21st annual event benefiting AIDS Arms, 7 partners

LifeWalk
WALK ON | Walkers head out along the 3.2-mile route out in the the 20th annual AIDS LifeWalk in 2010. Tori Hobbs, development director for AIDS Arms Inc., said funds from the walk this year are vital to AIDS Arms and its partner beneficiary agencies due to further cuts in funding from the federal government.

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

As local AIDS service organizations face even more cuts this year in federal and state funding, local fundraising efforts are becoming increasingly important in their efforts to keep their programs alive. One of those local fundraisers is the annual AIDS LifeWalk, produced each year by AIDS Arms, Inc.

This year’s walk, the 21st annual event set for Sunday, Oct. 2, also benefits AIDS Arms’ seven partner agencies: AIDS Services of Dallas, Bryan’s House, the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund, Legal Hospice of Texas, Resource Center Dallas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Tori Hobbs, director of development for AIDS Arms, said this week that LifeWalk this year is expected to account for about 5 percent of the agency’s annual budget.

“As the government cuts back on funding to those most vulnerable, agencies such as AIDS Arms must try and fill in the gaps,” Hobbs said. “LifeWalk is a very direct way to fill in those gaps in needed services for those impacted by HIV/AIDS.”

Hobbs said that currently, walker registrations online — and fundraising — are lagging a bit off the pace set by last year’s 20th annual LifeWalk, “so we really need folks to get signed up to walk and start asking their friends and families to support them in the walk.”

She said that individuals can register online, at AIDSLifeWalk.org, and that when they do so, they can create their own fundraising page and use that page to send emails directly to friends and family members to ask for donations.

The cost to register is $40 per person, and walkers can get their pets in on the fundraising effort as well, registering their dogs, for $10 per pooch, for LifeBark.

LifeWalk begins and ends at Lee Park. On-site registration begins at 11:30 a.m. in Lee Park on the day of the walk, and the walk itself begins at 1 p.m.

“All the funds we raise will go directly to access medical care for our clients with HIV/AIDS,” Hobbs said. “These clients can come to AIDS Arms and find the care they need. We are there to tell them that there is hope.

“We are really feeling the cuts from Washington right now, and we really need people to turn out again this year to support this walk, and to be part of this wonderful and caring community,” Hobbs said.

For more information or to register for LifeWalk, go online to AIDSLifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

F.A.C.E. offers HIV-positive a shoulder to lean on

HIV/AIDS support group at Cathedral of Hope celebrates its 1st anniversary with a World AIDS Day event that includes Quilt panels

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Todd Faulk

A year ago, Todd Faulk created an HIV/AIDS support group as part of the Cathedral of Hope outreach ministries. But it’s not a Bible study, and it’s not a religious group.

Faulk notes that he’s not a licensed counselor, and he’s not a pastor. The group is there to help people living with HIV feel better about themselves.

Still, Faulk said, he felt — and he had heard others say — that as the largest LGBT church in the area, Cathedral of Hope should offer an HIV support group.

Such groups were more common in the early 1990s, before drugs that helped control the virus became available. But Faulk saw a need. He said people had questions, especially young people.

When Faulk volunteered to become the face of the group, he turned that word into an acronym for Faith, Acceptance, Caring, Educate.

He said that the goal was support and information, not fellowship, so before calling the first meeting, he looked for some curriculum. He couldn’t find any, so he turned to area professionals.

Faulk knew Legacy Counseling Center Executive Director Melissa Grove because he turned to Legacy when he was first diagnosed a dozen years ago. So he approached her, and Grove provided him with a number of topics for meetings and referred a number of people to the group.

“They’ve done a fantastic job,” said Grove said of F.A.C.E. “Any person going to the group would be welcomed with open arms.”

She said that while Legacy provides individual counseling and therapeutic groups, and other AIDS service organizations offer other services, F.A.C.E.  fills a void.

“A support group doesn’t need to be led by a licensed professional,” she said.

Grove raved about the job Faulk has done. Before the group began, she worked with him on facilitating skills and how to create a safe environment.

“If a leader can’t do that, people won’t talk,” she said.

She said it was important for Faulk to recognize when someone might need something more than a support group, and over the past year they have referred people back and forth from her therapy to his support.

Dr. Nick Bellos and his nurse practitioner, Stephanie Shoemaker, usually attend two sessions a month to answer medical questions.

“We’re there in case people have questions about their drugs,” said Bellos.

He said they especially discuss side effects.

“We tell folks what’s out there and available,” he said.

Bellos also provides information about clinical trials in the area. Recently he gave the group information on life expectancies and co-morbidities, discussing HIV-related diabetes and hypertension.

His job isn’t diagnosing at the group, but if Bellos hears something that sounds like it needs to be examined, he sends the group member to his doctor.

Bellos complimented Faulk on the way he runs the group.

“He does a great job keeping the group on track,” Bellos said. “He makes sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.”

Faulk said some people attend a few meetings, get what they need from the group and move on. Others have become regulars. And while the goal is to help people with HIV live better lives, the death of one member soon after F.A.C.E.  formed reminded everyone of how serious HIV can be.

“He developed spinal meningitis and died in less than a week,” Faulk said. “His family didn’t even know he was positive.”

That left the man’s partner with the job of explaining the illness to the family.

Since then, that member’s mother has attended, first for support after her son’s death and then to help others come out to their families as HIV-positive and, when necessary, as gay.

Other parents have participated to get information and to support their HIV-positive sons. Parents from out of town have attended and left with confidence that their child was getting the support needed, Faulk said.

In addition to coming out and medical issues, Faulk said group members have dealt with a variety of other related topics, like “eating habits, how the food you’re eating affects your medication.”

Faulk said someone might mention that he has a reaction when he eats a particular food. And another group member will say he has noticed a similar reaction.

“I call that the ‘me, too’ factor,” said Grove. “It’s very important in decreasing isolation.”

Faulk said those sort of things are important because living with HIV requires a lifestyle change. He said he learned in the group that regular antacids block the body from properly absorbing HIV medications. He said his doctor gave him something to use instead.

“We talked about a recent study that showed that cocaine actually increases the amount of HIV in the body by lowering the immune system,” Faulk said.

Other topics have included acceptance, setting goals, the importance of physical activity, positive thinking and getting away from a “woe is me” feeling.

World AIDS Day marks the one-year anniversary of F.A.C.E., as well as the 10th anniversary of the John Thomas Bell Tower. F.A.C.E. helped coordinate the World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral.

The Rev. Paul Tucker, who was the Cathedral’s first AIDS chaplain, will lead the service. He is now a pastor at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis.

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform.

Panels from the quilt will be on display in the International Peace Chapel and HIV testing coordinated with Resource Center Dallas will be available throughout the day.

Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Dec. 1 at 7:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIN hits $10,000 fundraising goal, gets matching grant from Moody Foundation

Steven Pace

Back on Monday, Nov. 9, I posted this item here on Instant Tea pointing out that AIDS Interfaith Network had one week left to raise a total of $10,000 in order to get a grant from The Moody Foundation that would match the donations, dollar for dollar.

Well, you guys came through. AIN hit its goal and earned the matching grant!

This comes from Steve Pace, AIN’s executive director:

“To give you an idea of what that means to the clients we serve, $10,000 can provide: 400 DART bus passes so clients with HIV/AIDS can access medical services necessary to maintaining their health; or more than 1,650 nutritious, sustaining meals for our most vulnerable clients.”

Let me tell you, AIN — and all our AIDS service organizations — really know how to make every penny count. And thank goodness, otherwise there would be a lot of people going without food, without housing, without clothing, without their medications and without proper medical care.

But even though AIN hit its $10,000 goal, Pace points out, “We’re not claiming victory yet. Did you know there are still people right here in Dallas who are homeless, starving and living with HIV/AIDS? We typically see more people in need of food and assistance during the winter, so your continued support is crucial.”

So as we head into the holiday season, take a minute to stop and count your blessings. I bet you will find out you are more blessed than you realize. And then, share those blessings with people in need. Donate to AIDS Interfaith or one of our other outstanding AIDS service agencies, or to some other charitable cause. It will add more to your life than you can imagine. Just like Jesus said, “As you give, so shall you receive.”

—  admin

Organizers set goal of $500,000 for 20th annual LifeWalk

Organizers hoping for more than 10,000 walkers to gather in Lee Park to raise money for 10 AIDS service organizations in Dallas

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LIFEWALK  |  AIDS Arms recently held a reception at ilume Galleries honoring past and present chairs of the agency’s annual LifeWalk funraiser as part of the buildup to the 20th annual LifeWalk taking place Sunday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in Lee Park. During the event, an unnamed benefactor donated $5,000 to LifeWalk in honor of the past co-chairs. The event also featured eight local artists who had work on display in the gallery.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LIFEWALK | AIDS Arms recently held a reception at ilume Galleries honoring past and present chairs of the agency’s annual LifeWalk funraiser as part of the buildup to the 20th annual LifeWalk taking place Sunday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in Lee Park. During the event, an unnamed benefactor donated $5,000 to LifeWalk in honor of the past co-chairs. The event also featured eight local artists who had work on display in the gallery.

About 62 new teams have registered to participate in the 20th annual LifeWalk on Sunday, Oct. 10, according to AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles.

“That’s the most new teams in one year that we have ever had,” Nobles said. “We have all our established teams coming back, plus the 62 new teams. That’s a little more than 200 teams total that will be walking.”

And that’s not counting the people who haven’t registered yet and will be walking as individuals instead of with a team.

“A lot of people never join a team. They just show up on Sunday, register on their own and walk. And those individuals usually bring someone with them — a partner or other family member or a friend or a pet. We never know until the day of the walk how many people will be participating,” Nobles said.

She said nearly 10,000 people participated in the 2009 LifeWalk, “and we assume we will meet that number again this year, if not exceed it. We hope we will exceed it, of course.”

The fundraising goal for the 20th LifeWalk is set at $500,000, which will be divided between AIDS Arms, which presents the event, and the 10 other beneficiaries.

“That’s huge, we know. Year before last, we raised $430,000, and last year we just about hit $400,000. The economic recession hit us hard last year, but we are hoping to really bounce back from that this year.”

The fundraising goal for the walk is based on the needs of the beneficiaries, Nobles said. “We tell the [LifeWalk] steering committee what we need, and the committee approves that as the goal. Then they [committee members] have to go out there and make it happen.”

The recession, Nobles said, has impacted AIDS service organizations in more ways than one. While donors have had to cut back on how much they are able to give, agencies are at the same time seeing more people who need help.

“What’s happening, across the board, is that there are just far too many clients needing help than we have the capacity to help,” Nobles said. “All of us [AIDS service organizations] are just way beyond our capacity. All of us need funding to expand that capacity and serve the fast-growing segment of people who are HIV-positive.”

And the proceeds from LifeWalk are especially helpful because the beneficiary agencies can use those funds however they want.

“Grant money is always extremely restricted money,” Nobles explained. “You can only spend grant money on the specific things that the funder has approved. And most often, those grant dollars don’t pay for the tools we need to do our jobs — things like computers, prevention supplies, testing supplies.

“Grant money usually doesn’t cover the costs of expanded media in new formats, those new ways to use new avenues to reach out with education and prevention efforts,” she continued. “For example, here at AIDS Arms, we love to do our ‘Lunch and Learn’ program. It’s where we invite clients to come in and we feed them, and as they have lunch we educate them on some aspect of living with AIDS. But all that goes by the wayside when there are no unrestricted funds available.”

And that’s why LifeWalk is so important. Because the funds it brings in are completely unrestricted.

Nobles said AIDS Arms officials hope to be able to use LifeWalk funds this year to bring in new equipment for the Peabody Clinic.

“We have a long list of equipment we need to diagnose, track and monitor the health of our clients,” she said.

“This time around, cardiovascular care is a huge need in our HIV patients, and we need equipment to be able to respond to that need in a better way. I don’t think the general public really understands that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 health risk for a lot of HIV patients. That’s particularly true as the patient population ages.

And that makes the management of HIV disease that much more complicated. We have to stay on top of all of it.

You have to treat the whole person.”

Registration for LifeWalk opens at noon on Sunday, and the walk steps off at 1 p.m. Walkers will move up Turtle Creek Boulevard, go through the West Village and then circle through Uptown and back to Lee Park.

There will be activities and entertainment going on throughout the day in the park, including the Buster Brown Band, a DJ playing music, Voice of Pride winner Mel Arizpe, games for the children, food, beverages and more, Nobles said.

Also during the day, in honor of the 20th anniversary, past LifeWalk co-chairs will be recognized from the stage.

“It’s going to be very family friendly, and very dog friendly. There will be several vendors with booths, and there will be a health fair with free HIV testing available on-site all day,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Nobles acknowledged that the reason behind LifeWalk is very serious, and that there are likely to be some sad moments as organizers and participants remember friends and family members who have died.
But the fun side of the event is also important.

“Everyone knows that we do this for very serious reasons, that the epidemic is still killing people and that our dollars are going to help with serious needs,” Nobles said. “But people need to have some relief from that seriousness, too. People get burned out. It’s called ‘compassion fatigue.’ And they need to be able to celebrate life; we need to celebrate the memories of those we have lost and we need to celebrate the lives of those who are living with this disease.

“There are people who have lived with this since the day the epidemic began, and we need to celebrate their lives, their tenacity and their courage,” Nobles said. “And LifeWalk is a great way to do that, because you know that every dollar that comes into LifeWalk goes to programs that directly help clients. Close to 20,000 people depend on the AIDS services organizations in Dallas, and the money from LifeWalk goes to help them. You can make an investment in the future of a lot of people through LifeWalk.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lone Star Ride set to pedal the Metroplex

Annual bike ride leaves from American Airlines conference center on Saturday and returns Sunday

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

READY TO RIDE  |  Volunteers pack goodie bags before the start of the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Services Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center will split the proceeds.
READY TO RIDE | Volunteers pack goodie bags before the start of the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Services Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center will split the proceeds.

Close to 200 bicyclists will be pedaling their way across the Metroplex this weekend, supported by about the same number of crew members staffing pit stops, sweep vehicles, the moto crew and other support positions, as part of the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

The ride again benefits three DFW AIDS service organizations: AIDS Services of Dallas, Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Outreach Center of Fort Worth.

Laura Kerr and John Tripp, LSR co-chairs, said Monday, Sept. 20, that they were pleased with how smoothly the final stages of preparations were going, thanks to the efforts of the Lone Star Ride council and committee chairs.

“I’m really not stressed at all, thanks to these people,” Kerr said with a sweep of her arm, indicating council members and committee chairs who had gathered at Resource Center Dallas to fill “goodie bags” that will be handed out to riders and crew members. “This council has exceeded all our expectations.”

Tripp agreed. “This council has done an amazing job this year,” he said. “They have stayed focused on doing what they set out to do, and they have accomplished their goals.”

Tripp said organizers had reached their primary goals for the 10th anniversary of the fundraising ride.

“We wanted to grow the ride, and we did that. We wanted to register more riders this year, and then we wanted to retain more riders throughout the year, and we have done that. I think we are in very good shape,” he said.

Kerr explained that more than 200 people had registered over the past 12 months as riders. In the past, as many as 25 percent of those who registered to ride eventually dropped out or switched over to crew positions before the day of the ride.

But this year’s rider retention rate, she said, is much higher.

Kerr and Tripp credited that to Michael Mack and Dennis Pilgrim, co-chairs of the rider retention committee.

Pilgrim and Mack, both in their second year as riders with LSR, said they had created a training program that included non-crew-supported rides each Tuesday and Thursday, giving registered riders the opportunity to train alongside each other and get used to riding in a group.

That program, the two men said, has helped keep registered riders involved and interested.

Pilgrim and Mack are also co-captains of the Positive Pedalers team for LSR, a group of HIV-positive cyclists and crew members participating in the event. Mack said the Positive Pedalers team this year includes 21 riders and crew members, the largest Pos Pedalers team every in LSR.

The ride begins at 7 a.m. Saturday morning, with cyclists leaving base camp, set up at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center — located at 4501 Hwy. 360 S. in Fort Worth — and riding northwest to Haslett, before circling back to end at the training center. Day two on Sunday again begins with ride out at 7 a.m., only this time riders head southeast to Ovilla before circling back.

On Saturday, riders have three route options: a century ride that covers 100 miles, a 75-mile route and a 45-mile route. The two longer routes include a pit stop at the offices of AIDS Outreach Center at 400 North Beach Street in Fort Worth.

Sunday riders can choose either the 75-mile or the 45-mile route.

On Saturday night, there will be dinner and entertainment at the AA training center, and guests are invited to attend.

Guests are also invited to come out and help cheer the riders on during both days of the ride.

Two cheering stations will be set up on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s stations include one at the American Airlines training center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and one at AIDS Outreach Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday’s cheerings stations are at the training center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at Texas Plume Road, across from Lorch Park, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For details, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

Non-ride participants are also encouraged to attend closing ceremonies on Sunday, beginning at 5 p.m., at the training center.

Kerr and Tripp both noted that anyone who has not yet registered and wants to participate has until 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, to sign up. In addition to online registration, potential participants can attend the pre-ride spaghetti dinner being held at Resource Center Dallas and register there.

To register as a rider, individuals must pay a $75 registration fee and raise at least $500 in donations. To register as a crewmember, individuals must pay a $50 registration fee. Crew positions are still available.

David Mineheart, LSR event manager, also encouraged people to participate in some way in the ride.

“The bottom line is that this even raises money for people who really need the help and rely on it,” Mineheart said. “Plus, Lone Star Ride is just lots of fun. It creates an energy that is just amazing. Anybody who has ever been there knows what I am talking about, and if you haven’t been there, you should come and see for yourself.

“This is about people of all types, from all walks of life, coming together to help with something that is bigger than themselves,” he added. “We are talking about giving and having fun. That’s what Lone Star Ride is all about.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

LifeWalk: A big party for a big anniversary

20th annual LifeWalk steps off Oct. 10, will benefit 9 ASOs

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Lifewalk
WALKING FOR A CAUSE | Participants in the 20th annual LifeWalk in October can choose any one of 10 partner organizations to benefit from the funds they raise.

Twenty years is a long time for a fundraising event to stay active, not to mention successful. And a 20th anniversary calls for a special celebration.

And that’s exactly what AIDS Arms has planned for the 20th annual LifeWalk set for Sunday, Oct. 10 at Lee Park.

As the event marks its 20th year, AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said, “One of the things we wanted to do, right out of the gate, was increase our partnerships within the nonprofit community, to increase the number of partner agencies that would benefit from LifeWalk.

“We had four partner agencies last year. This year, we have nine. There are 10 organizations, counting AIDS Arms,” she said.

LifeWalk was created in 1991 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency folded, AIDS Arms took over, each year inviting other AIDS service organizations in the community to participate.

Nobles said organizers this year made a point to reach out to all the ASOs still in existence that had benefited from AIDS Arms in the past, asking them to participate again.

And the nine that are partnering with AIDS Arms for the event have the opportunity to add significantly to their coffers, she said.

“Every partner agency gets all the tools they need to have a successful LifeWalk team,” Nobles said. “They can potentially make a lot of money for themselves. It’s sort of the same model as the Black Tie Dinner. With Black Tie, beneficiaries can more or less write their own check, depending on how many tables they sell, how many raffle tickets they sell and how many volunteer hours they put in.

“What they get in return is the infrastructure for a very established event here in Dallas, and they can use that to benefit their organizations,” Nobles said.

It’s very similar with LifeWalk: Each agency works to get people to raise money and walk, and the money raised in an agency’s name goes to that agency, she explained.

Nobles said that LifeWalk strives each year to bring in enough sponsorships to completely cover the costs of staging the event, and they have reached that goal again this year. That means that “every penny that the walkers earn” goes to either AIDS Arms or one of the nine other beneficiary organizations.

“Of every dollar the beneficiaries raise, they keep 75 cents. The other 25 cents comes back to LifeWalk for next year’s event. That allows us to create an investment account to secure the future of the event, and it gives every beneficiary unrestricted funds to use however they need to,” Nobles said.

LifeWalk, Nobles continued, is a great example of the benefits of working together.

“The issue of collaboration is so important in this [HIV/AIDS] community. We all depend on each other so heavily these days, and this is one more opportunity for us to come together under one cause and help each of our individual organizations grow stronger .

“We [as organizations] may be very different from one another. We may not always agree with each other. But we are all here for the same reason,” she said. “And LifeWalk is an excellent platform to show the community that we can and do work together and partner together on behalf of our clients.”

In another nod to the past, all of the previous LifeWalk chairs have been invited to participate in the 20th anniversary celebration, Nobles said.

“We are hunting down, if you will, all the previous chairs, and we have been able to locate quite a few of them. Many of them still live in Dallas,” she said. “There is a group of previous chairs who have reaching out to the community, working to remind folks about LifeWalk, telling them, ‘Hey, this is why we were involved, and still are involved, in this event. This is the impact it can have on our community.”

Nobles said it has been gratifying for her to hear the stories of past LifeWalk chairs and to hear that so many of the people who were involved in past years are still supportive of the event.

“Many of them still attend LifeWalk every year, and they have some very personal reasons for doing so. It has been very moving for us to hear those stories,” she said. “Many of them will be at the 20th anniversary, and we are very proud that we can have them there to let everyone acknowledge the history and their contributions and what they have been able to build through this event.”

LifeBark — the LifeWalk co-event created several years ago to allow people to bring their dogs to the event and use their pets to widen their fundraising options — is “still howling,” Nobles said.

“There will be registration available for all the pups who want to walk and wag their tails for a good cause. There will be doggie games and treats and all kinds of vendors. And Operation Kindness will be there, too, with dogs available for adoption,” she noted.

LifeWalk representatives will be selling raffle tickets for the 2011 Mercedes Benz that will be raffled off during Black Tie Dinner in November, and there will be free HIV testing available to anyone who wants to get tested. Plus, there will be LifeWalk raffles for a new living room suite and for two American Airlines tickets to “anywhere American flies,” Nobles said.

The Buster Brown Band, which Nobles described as a “lively jazz band,” will be entertaining in Lee Park for LifeWalk, as will Darcell, a Dallas native who is coming back from Los Angeles to perform. And Dallas Pride Cheer will be on hand as well.

Nobles said AIDS Arms is proud that LifeWalk is one of the first local events to get the “family-friendly” seal of approval from the Human Rights Campaign’s local Family Equality Committee.

“There will be lots of things for the kids and teenagers to do, as well as the adults,” she said.

Although some teams have been working for months to raise money for LifeWalk, there will be plenty of people there walking as individuals, too, Nobles said.

And individuals will be able to register and participate right up until the time the walk steps off.

“All you have to do is show up at Lee Park that day and pay the $30 registration fee and get the T-shirt that comes with the registration fee,” Nobles said. “You can download the form from LifeWalk.org and turn it in that day, or you can register online, or you can just come out and register that day. Just show up at noon and walk. It’s as easy as that.”

Although LifeWalk is permeated with an air of celebration and fun, Nobles said she also wants people to remember the very serious reasons behind the walk.

“The HIV epidemic is doing nothing but growing right now in Dallas,” she said. “There are some great things happening to help fight that epidemic, and LifeWalk is a very important avenue for people to use to help us reach the goals we’ve set to be successful for our clients.

“We hope everyone will come on out, enjoy the anniversary celebration, enjoy the party and enjoy doing something good for somebody who really needs your help.”

For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Stafford elected DIFFA/Dallas board chair

From Staff Reports

The Dallas chapter of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS this week announced the election of Mark Stafford as chairman of the organization’s board of trustees.

Vice chairs are Ron Brady and Carol Hatton. Darin Kunz was elected secretary, and Ed Hill is treasurer.

Clint Bradley, Brett Gray, Greg Haynes Johnson, Mark Mayland, Greg Nieberding, Beth Redmond, Dr. Brady Allen, Ferrell Drum and Donna Sedota have also been named to the board.

Stafford, a former trustee and founder/CEO of Revel Advertising said he is honored to have been elected chair of the DIFFA/Dallas board.
“We are all dedicated to supporting the foundation and working hard to raise funds and awareness for the fight against HIV and AIDS, so AIDS services in North Texas can continue to support those living with the disease,” he said.

DIFFA has granted more $4.5 million to local AIDS service organizations since 1988.

DIFFA’s 2010-2011 fundraising season kicks off Oct. 15 with the second annual Burgers and Burgundy, hosted by Chef John Tesar at the roof top pool at The House in Victory Park.

Other events scheduled so far include the DIFFA Holiday Wreath Collection in November and a major spring fundraiser.

For more information or to purchase tickets for a DIFFA event, go online to DIFFADallas.org.

—  Kevin Thomas

ASOs pleased with Obama’s AIDS strategy

Service providers are optimistic about holistic approach, but want to see the money to back up plan

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Raeline Nobles

The White House’s new National AIDS Strategy, released July 13, is getting good reviews from AIDS service organizations in North Texas.

The policy includes plans on how to reduce new infections, how to increase access to health care and how to improve the outcome for people living with HIV. It takes a holistic approach to AIDS, bringing resources from around the community together and recognizing the need for transportation, food and housing as well as medical treatment.

Its goals also include eliminating the stigma still attached to HIV/AIDS.

“This White House is more systemic,” said Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms. “[They know that] when one part of the system is weak, the entire system breaks down. You have to reach out into the greater community.”

Nobles noted the focus on reducing the infection rate by 25 percent.

“I think the strategy is very aggressive,” she said. “A 25 percent drop is a huge drop.”

Still, she wondered how the plan would be funded.

“Healthcare reform will provide some answers, but not until 2014 and that’s a long time in the middle of an epidemic,” she said.

Steven Pace, executive director of AIDS Interfaith Network, said “What I hope emerges is renewed outreach and prevention because those were so destroyed under the Bush administration.”

And Don Maison, president and CEO of AIDS services of Dallas commended the plan’s “recognition of the importance of housing for overall health. … Housing has the attention of policymakers and is included for the first time.”

Maison attended a White House meeting in December with Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. Four assistants to the president, officials from HUD and the Health Resources and Services Administration also attended.

When Maison read how their concerns were addressed in the strategy, he said he was delighted they were listening.

Nobles also was impressed with the process by which the administration put the strategy together.

She said that at least once every other week she received an e-mail asking her opinion.

Steve Dutton, executive director of Samaritan House in Fort Worth, pointed out three things he especially liked about the strategy.

“It’s important that housing is integrated into the plan,” he said. “I like the call to educating all Americans about the disease. And prevention is more than just condoms.”

He said this was the first administration that gathered information from experts and used that to formulate a strategy. He said he was impressed by the call for federal agencies to work closely with local agencies.

Like other agency directors, Dutton worried about funding.

He said the president made it clear in his executive summary of the document that this is not a budget document.

“But it clearly establishes national priorities,” Dutton said. “That’s very impressive. It’s been a long time since leadership asked people on the street, ‘What do you think?’”

Bret Camp from Nelson Tebedo Clinic was cautiously optimistic.

“It’s good that we finally have a plan,” he said. “I would like to see money behind it.”

Camp liked the idea of collaboration among faith-based groups, government agencies, the medical community and service organizations.

“That makes the continuum of prevention services seamless,” he said.

Camp pointed to the Stomp Out Syphilis program at Resource Center Dallas that works well with faith-based organizations throughout the community.
“The state holds that program up as a model,” he said.

Allan Gould, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, said the plan had the right goals for halting the spread of HIV. He said that over the last five to 10 years, most people acted as though the AIDS epidemic was over, but, “AIDS is still a huge problem.”

Gould said that the two things to watch are how the plan is implemented and where the money is coming from. The federal government funds Tarrant County and other areas with fewer than 2,000 cases of AIDS differently than cities like Dallas with more people infected with HIV.

“Small agencies will close,” Gould said.

But his reading of the strategy is that it is a fresh approach.

“It’s a health issue, not a moral issue,” he said. “The plan takes a holistic approach.”

He said the president sounded pragmatic when he announced the strategy, admitting he didn’t have all the answers.

Gould said that for the first time, ASOs wouldn’t have to wait for a change in administration to get rid of a policy or an approach that isn’t working.
But Gould laughed at one of the main goals — to reduce the stigma of AIDS.

He said you can’t tell people how to think, but he thought it was better to have that as policy than not.

Getting the prevention message out there once again, Gould said, was among the most important pieces of the new plan.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIDS organizations mark HIV Testing Day

New report from CDC says most recent data shows that MSM continue to make up the largest percentage of new infections

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

AIDS service organizations across the Metroplez are offering free HIV testing over the next week, leading up to National HIV Testing Day on Sunday, June 27.

The Nelson-Tebedo Clinic is offering free testing Monday through Friday, June 21-25, Monday-Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the clinic on Cedar Springs. On June 27, testing will be available free at JR.’s Bar and Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

No appointments are necessary. Rapid HIV testing results will be available within an hour.

Last year on National HIV Testing Day, 213 people came to Nelson-Tebedo to be tested, clinic officials said.

In Collin County, free testing will be available on the Springcreek Campus of Collin County Community College on June 22 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

AIDS Arms will offer free testing at their office in Oak Cliff on Saturday, June 26 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are located at 219 Sunset Avenue, Suite 116-A.

“What we’re wanting to do is focus heavily on our area in Oak Cliff that’s heavily Latino-American who walk into our office on a regular basis,” said Darriane Martin of AIDS Arms.

They will distribute fliers along Jefferson Boulevard and in Wynnewood Village before the event and “put people on the streets” the day of testing.

“We want you to get tested, know your status, talk to us and even get some condoms if you need them,” she said.

The same day, they are partnering in the National HIV Testing Day 5K walk/run at 8 a.m. in Reverchon Park in Oak Lawn.

AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth will have extended hours at their office at 400 North Beach St. in Fort Worth on June 29. They will also participate in the third annual Neighborhood Connect at 4300 Eastland St. in Fort Worth on June 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This week, the Center for Disease Control released its 20th annual HIV Surveillance Report noting almost 42,500 new diagnoses of HIV or AIDS in 2007 — the latest year for which statistics were available.

Of new cases reported, 53 percent could be traced to male-to-male sexual contact. More than 30 percent were the result of high-risk heterosexual contact. The rest were connected to intravenous drug use or a combination of risk factors.

More than 21,500 of new cases were among African-Americans. Whites made up the next largest group with more than 12,500 new infections.

Though Texas is the second most populous state, it ranks fourth in new diagnoses as well as in cumulative cases since the beginning of the epidemic. Since the early 1980s, 72,828 people have been identified as HIV-positive.

At the end of 2007, the CDC estimated 468,578 persons were living with HIV/AIDS and that estimate 14,561 people with AIDS died that same year. The total number of deaths related to the virus since the beginning of the epidemic is 583,298.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice