Scenes from World AIDS Day Dallas at Main Street Garden

Seven panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt formed the centerpiece of the World AIDS Day commemoration on Saturday in Dallas’ Main Street Garden.

Members of the Knitting Circle, a group of HIV-positive women from Legacy Counseling Center’s Grace Project, wore red scarves they knitted for the first time. The project is designed to increase knowledge and decrease loneliness for those in communities where HIV remains a taboo subject.

Among the quilts displayed was one with a panel for Tom Davis, founder of the Round-Up Saloon; David Barton, founder of Hunky’s; and Alan Ross, the Pride parade organizer. On another quilt was a panel for Steve Burrus, a Dallas man who co-founded DIFFA.

Another is the most requested panel in the entire 50,000-panel quilt. It reads: “My name is Duane Kearns Puryear. I was born on December 20, 1964. I was diagnosed with AIDS on September 7, 1987 at 4:45 pm. I was 22 years old. Sometimes it makes me very sad. I made this panel myself. If you are reading it, I am dead.”

Puryear made that panel at a quilt-making workshop at Resource Center Dallas, where it hung until he took it to Washington, D.C. in 1989 for a quilt display on the National Mall. On his flight home, he left it in the overhead bin and the original was never seen again. When he died in 1990, his mother made this replica from a picture and it is her replica that is part of the quilt.

Among the speakers were Otis Harris who was featured on Saturday in an MTV special, I’m Positive, and Zach Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

More photos below.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Dallas’ Otis Harris Jr. talks about living with HIV on MTV

Otis_GTADallas_138For World AIDS Day, MTV is airing I’m Positive, which featuring Otis Harris Jr., a local 25-year-old who tested positive for HIV and is part of the Greater Than AIDS campaign. Dallas Voice featured Harris in a story several weeks ago.

Harris shares his story of contracting HIV and explains the importance of spreading awareness.

For a year, Harris was afraid to tell his father that he tested positive. But his father’s reaction was that he loves his son and now is participating in the Greater Than AIDS with his son. And his reaction to seeing himself on a billboard with his son?

“Now my fat face is up there,” Harris Sr. said.

On World AIDS Day, Harris will be at the Dallas event Saturday at Main Street Garden, from 3–6 p.m. Watch a video preview of Harris’ appearance on I’m Positive after the jump.

—  David Taffet

Legacy’s local HIV-positive women’s conference becomes national event

Michelle Anderson

More than 200 women are expected to attend this year’s Grace Project National HIV-Positive Women’s Conference after Legacy Counseling Center opened registration to women beyond North Texas for the first time in the event’s 12-year history.

The weekend includes 15 speakers. Among them is Michelle Anderson, Miss Plus America 2011. The “plus” is for plus-size, but she is also the first openly HIV-positive national beauty queen winner.

Women ages 17-77 are expected. Seven are in their 70s, according to Legacy Counseling Center Executive Director Melissa Grove.

“Grandpa got Viagra and grandma got AIDS,” she said.

The conference is to give the women support, educate them about their health and create grassroots leaders to talk to their communities about HIV/AIDS.

Grove said that many are low-income women.

“Many come not knowing another HIV-positive person,” she said.

—  David Taffet

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

AOC to host new Magic Johnson HIV/AIDs clinic

Gould expects new clinic to open in April, giving HIV/AIDS patients in Tarrant County more options for care

Magic-Johnson

Magic Johnson

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Officials at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, announced on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, that basketball legend and AIDS survivor Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be lending his name to three new AHF-affiliated healthcare clinics — including one planned at AOC’s Fort Worth facilities.
The other two new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Centers will be in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Atlanta.

AOC and AHF officials had announced in late September that the boards of the two agencies had signed a letter of intent to develop the Fort Worth clinic.

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould said this week his agency is “very excited” that the clinic being planned here was chosen to be an AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center.

“It is definitely something we had hoped for, and we are very honored that the Magic Johnson Foundation and AIDS Healthcare Foundation trust us to operate this new clinic,” Gould said. “His [Johnson’s] name will bring an even larger degree of publicity to our agency and to the work we do here. And hopefully, that will open some doors that were not so fully opened to us in the past. This can’t be anything but great news for us.”

AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S., and serves more than 100,000 patients overall in 22 countries. Created in 1987, the foundation generates its operating capital through its own self-created social enterprises, including AHF Pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships.

Johnson, who was still playing pro basketball in 1991 when he announced publicly that he was HIV-positive, is chairman and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation. The foundation raises funds for community-based organizations focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

“Magic Johnson is not just an outstanding businessman and a sports legend. He is also a hero to thousands because of the way he lends his name to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Gould said. “When he stepped up to declare that he was HIV-positive, he did a tremendous amount to help lessen the stigma of AIDS.”

Gould said the most important aspect of the new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Clinic at AOC is that it will “offer clients a choice.”

“I am not saying anything negative about JPS Healing Wings [HIV clinic] or the Tarrant County Health Department’s AIDS clinic. They do a great job,” Gould said. “But there are still people lining up at both those clinics every day to see a physician and get the care they need. Now there will be a paradigm shift in access to medical care in our region. Now those clients will have a choice.”

He said that the new clinic, “ideally, could see up to a thousand clients a year, once it is staffed. But I think in the first year we will see 400 to 600 patients.

What that will do is lower the number of patients going to Healing Wings and the public health clinic, and shorten those lines, that wait time. This gives those clients another opportunity to access expert, top-of-the-line, cutting edge medical care.”
Gould said the new clinic will occupy about 4,000 square feet of AOC’s facilities at 400 N. Beach St., and that it will include a pharmacy, as well.

Gould.Allan

Allan Gould

“This new clinic will offer medical treatment and prescriptions, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay,” Gould said. “That’s a huge element that we will be bringing to the table that has not been previously available” in Tarrant County and surrounding rural counties AOC serves.

Gould said AHF first approached AOC officials about five months ago, and that AOC officials “were really honored” to be considered as the site of a new AHF clinic.

“It is something we have wanted to do for some time,” Gould said. “Having a clinic has long been an integral part of our mission, and when we moved to our new location here on Beach Street, we did so hoping that the additional square footage this new space gives us would give us the chance to have a clinic.”

But even after they were approached by AHF, “we took our time and did our due diligence,” Gould said. “It takes times to figure out if you want to be a federally qualified health care clinic or go a different route. You have to look at all the parameters involved and all the different permits and licenses you have to have. It can become quite daunting.”

Even when they announced the letter of intent in September, he said, details were still being negotiated. That’s why when AHF CEO Michael Weinstein said during his visit to Fort Worth last month that he would love to see the new clinic open on Feb. 14, 2012, “our jaws just dropped to the floor,” Gould said.

“Even under the best circumstances, the process of getting [construction] permits and rearranging the existing offices — opening by Valentine’s Day simply was not feasible.”

Still, Gould said, word of the new clinic is already getting around and “We are already getting resumés for physicians who want to come and run this clinic, from nurse practitioners and others who want to work here.

“This truly is a huge event for Tarrant County,” Gould continued. “I know there are a number of community health care clinics in Dallas, but this will be the first one in our area that isn’t run by a major medical facility. The role that AOC has been trying to foster for some time is now coming to fruition, and that speaks volumes about the respect we have built up.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hess marks 25 years with RCD

Co-workers call him the steadying force, the quiet authority and the keeper of institutional knowledge

A QUARTER CENTURY  |  Craig Hess was Resource Center Dallas’ second employee when he started 25 years ago. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

A QUARTER CENTURY | Craig Hess was Resource Center Dallas’ second employee when he started 25 years ago. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Craig Hess marked his 25th anniversary as an employee of Resource Center Dallas appropriately enough on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

To put that amount of time in perspective, World AIDS Day dates back only 23 years.

Currently, Hess is the insurance assistance coordinator at RCD. When he was hired in 1986, he started as the volunteer coordinator.

Hess was the second person hired by the organization — after community educator Mike Richards and before the agency’s first executive director, John Thomas. Hess said three people were hired that day.
“When I took the job, it was temporary — six months and they’ll find a cure,” he said. “This has been the longest temporary job I ever had.”

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell called Hess “a living history book” and “the keeper of institutional knowledge” for the agency. He said that Hess is a steadying force at the center and is treated with a great deal of respect.

“He’s the quiet authority,” McDonnell said.

Hess describes himself a little differently.

“I’m the voice of reason among the insanity,” he said.

Hess said he’s amazed at what Resource Center Dallas has become.

In the beginning, he said, “This was as grassroots as it could be. And now we’re a United Way agency. Government funding? We never thought of that back then.”

He recounted how the insurance program he heads got started in the late 1990s. Dallas County helped Resource Center Dallas make COBRA payments for its clients. At the time, Parkland Hospital estimated that the $60,000 in insurance payments it funded saved the county more than $6 million.

“Now it’s more like $100 million saved,” Hess said.

Hess said his background is in accounting.

“I like doing it because it’s very exacting,” he said. “There’s no leeway. It’s very organized. This is extreme accounting.”

He called his job the one no one else wants to do.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox was among the agency’s staff who heaped praise on Hess.

“When I first met Craig, he wore a different pair of high tops everyday and drove a Cadillac convertible,” Cox said. “He’s always had his own style and there’s something to be said for that.”

But her admiration for him was apparent.

“He’s given 25 years of service to this community,” she said. “He’s dedicated his life to that service.”

Cox said that she gets letters from clients about how much Hess has helped them.

“With this job comes many complaints,” she said. “To have a client take the time to send a letter of gratitude catches my attention.”

But she said to get letters about him repeatedly is a testament to his value to the organization and its clients.

Client Services Manager Jennifer Hurn said it struck her when Hess remarked that the names on the buildings are real people to him.

“Most of us here now can’t say that,” she said.

Hess agreed and was more comfortable talking about the many other people who helped build the center than about his own accomplishments.

He mentioned Bill Hunt who helped create the Food Pantry and the hot meals program that he dubbed “Chez Louise.”

“Bill wanted lunch served on china because it was about dignity,” he said. “Social, not institutional.”

And Hess has taken that lesson to heart. He explained why he’s devoted his life to RCD’s clients.

“I could be any one of the clients,” he said. “If this happened to me, how would I want people to treat me?”

So how long can clients count on him to continue doing his temporary job?

“I’m there till it’s over,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

World AIDS Day 2011 in Dallas

Events in Dallas commemorating World AIDS Day 2011.

Photos by Tina Alexander

 

—  admin

On World AIDS Day: some HIV statistics

For World AIDS Day, here are some statistics gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and the Dallas County Department of Health about HIV/AIDS:

• Someone becomes infected with HIV every 9½ minutes.

• One in five people infected with HIV is unaware of it.

• Since 1981, more than 30 million people worldwide have died from the disease.

• Since 1981, more than 600,000 in the United States have died from the disease.

• 61,595 people in Texas are infected with HIV.

• Today, 34 million people worldwide have HIV/AIDS.

• Although African-Americans make up only about 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up nearly half the people in the country who are living with HIV.

• Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control.

• About 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV.

• Only 28 percent of those have a suppressed viral load.

• Of those living with HIV who are in ongoing care and on anti-retroviral treatment, 77 percent have suppressed levels of the virus.

• Only 51 percent of those with HIV in the United States receive ongoing medical care and treatment.

On Dec. 1, AIDS organizations from across Dallas County will gather at Main Street Garden at 7:30 p.m. for an AIDS remembrance.

—  David Taffet

DCHHS offering free HIV tests on World AIDS Day

Tomorrow — Thursday, Dec. 1 — is World AIDS Day, and special events are planned across the Metroplex, including an event at Main Street Garden at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Dallas, and a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, free HIV testing and more at Cathedral of Hope, beginning at 11 a.m.

Now Dallas County Health and Human Services has announced that they will be offering free rapid HIV testing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Early Intervention Clinic on the third floor of the DCHHS building, 2377 N. Stemmons Frwy. in Dallas.

DCHHS is also offering free tests for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside DCHHS’ mobile medical clinic, which will be stationed at Paul Quinn College, 3837 Simpson Stuart Road; and free HIV and syphilis testing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle in Denton, with testing locations on campus at the student wellness center, Kerr Hall, the student union and Discovery Park.

And if you can’t get to one of these location on Thursday, the mobile medical unit will be at the Big T Bazaar, 4515 Village Fair Drive in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, for free testing, too.

According to 2010 statistics provided by DCHHS, nearly 14,000 people in Dallas County are living with HIV, and about 908 new cases of HIV/AIDS were diagnosed here last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and — here’s the scary part — 1 in 5 don’t even know they are infected with the virus.

Remember people: You cannot get proper treatment for HIV if you don’t know you are infected. You cannot take proper precautions to avoid passing the virus to someone else if you don’t know you are infected. And you won’t know if you are infected unless you get tested!

—  admin

Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett to participate in World AIDS Day event

Dallas Cowboys' tight end Martellus Bennett

Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Martellus Bennett will speak Thursday, Dec. 1 at the World AIDS Day event at Main Street Garden in Downtown Dallas at 7:30 p.m.

Bennett may be best known in the LGBT community for cheating on a girlfriend who had nude pics of him last year — and for making a rap video that included a gay slur the year before.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is “Getting to Zero.” Organizers said that meant zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.

Among the other speakers at the hour-long event are restaurant-owner Monica Greene, Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation founder Anthony Chisom, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. Openly gay Cantor Don Croll will begin the event with an invocation. Pastor Doris G. Deckard, founder of the Church of the Solid Rock, will close the ceremony. The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and the African drum ensemble from Booker T. Washington High School will perform.

Six panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display.

The Greater Than AIDS movement will set up a video and photo booth where individuals can share their “Deciding Moment” — a personal decision to take a stand against HIV and to be greater than the disease.

Local HIV/AIDS organizations and community groups will be on hand with information on HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

The event is free and open to the public. Main Street Garden, 1900 Main Street. Dec. 1, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet