City, county officials attend Out of the Closet opening

DSC_2449There was even a baby. Dozens of people, including representatives from the city of Dallas and Dallas County showed up Saturday morning to support the opening of Out of the Closet, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s new thrift store on Cedar Spring Road.

But the store, beaming with a vivid paint job that transformed the former Union Jack into chic thrift, offers more than clothing and household goods. HIV testing is available and a full-service pharmacy will be added in three to six months. AHF Regional Director Bret Camp told the crowd that AHF has 22 clinics in the U.S., two of them in Dallas and Fort Worth.

“AHF serves 300,000 patients worldwide and over 4,000 a day in HIV clinics,” he said.

The return of an HIV clinic to that block on Cedar Springs, prompted one county official to say that the fight against HIV has returned to where it began.

“This is where the HIV fight began,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services. “… but we still have a long way to go.”

Dallas City Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston were there, along with Rod Givens, District Director for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office, and Tony Vedda, president and CEO of North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. The store’s opening coincides with the Cedar Springs Merchant’s Association’s weekend of the Cedar Springs Arts Fest and Easter in the Park. Cedar Springs Road will be closed today from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the arts fest.

To see more pics of the opening, go here.

Read more about the weekend festivities here.

 

 

—  Steve Ramos

DCHHS now offering seasonal flu vaccine

FROM STAFF REPORTS
editor@dallasvoice.com

Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson announced this week that the department has, as of Thursday, Sept. 8, begun offering the seasonal flu vaccine for adults and children. Flu vaccines for children are $5, and the adult vaccine is $20. The vaccine is free for patients covered by Medicare.

Thompson the vaccine is recommended for almost everyone except children younger than 6 months and people who have severe allergies to eggs, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. DCHHS will also have the high-dose flu vaccine available for seniors 65 years and older at a cost of $40. This vaccine is also covered under Medicare.

The flu vaccine will only be offered in the child and adult immunization clinics in the DCHHS building at 2377 N. Stemmons Frwy. The children’s immunization clinic, located on the first floor, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. The adult immunization clinic, also located on the first floor, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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

—  Michael Stephens

AIDS at 30: Funding shifting toward prevention as officials struggle to reach those on opposite ends of the age range

Zachary Thompson

While medical, support services will continue for those already infected, efforts to prevent new infections will get more attention, DHHS says

DRACONIS VON TRAPP | Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

As new HIV infections continue to be recorded, officials are shifting the focus to a new, comprehensive prevention model, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson.

Thompson said that while funding will still go to support and medical services for those already infected with HIV, the focus on preventing new infections will be stronger than before.

Thompson said that Dallas leads Texas in the number of HIV and AIDS cases. The numbers are on the rise for youths ages 13 to 24, individuals aged 45 and older, African-Americans, and MSMs (men who have sex with men). New prevention programs are aimed at these audiences, which in the past have proven difficult to reach.

“Younger people think they’re invincible,” Thompson said, “while the individuals above 45 seem to think that their partners are safer.”

But neither assumption is true, Thompson said, encouraging those who think they transcend HIV to get tested and know their status, know their partner’s status, and protect themselves.

As for the numbers among people of color, Thompson said he expects to see an increase in HIV infections among African-American men and women.

“Reaching the people of color has been a challenge over the years,” said Thompson, revealing that for many years communities of color have seen HIV and AIDS as a “white person disease.”

Thompson made a reference to Magic Johnson and how his infection brought the attention to communities of color.

“We’ve got to move past the stigmas and focus on prevention efforts,” Thompson said.

The new comprehensive prevention model, Thompson explained, tries to target these high-risk groups. He said the county has been working towards setting up more testing facilities in areas that have higher numbers of HIV infections, such as the 75243 zip code.

New funding is also going towards setting up community-based organizations for prevention.

Thompson said that prevention must start at a community level and start “bottom-up, not top-down.”

In order to reach men and women aged 45 and over, Thompson has said that the county is looking into having HIV and AIDS education available in the community libraries, civic groups and churches. For the youths in the 13-to-24 age range, they’re looking into social networking technology such as Facebook and Twitter to get the word out, as well as starting more school-based programs.

But Thompson also said that people have gotten too caught up in the numbers and infection rates and haven’t paid enough attention to the individual communities that don’t have the resources to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. He agreed that AIDS has fallen out of popularity as a “cause,” and that some are getting complacent about taking care and protecting themselves.

But AIDS isn’t going away and we are not in a safe zone yet, Thompson said. The key is prevention, paying more attention to the community and getting tested.

“Testing, testing, testing,” Thompson emphasized. Know where you stand and keep yourself protected.

—  John Wright

Abounding Prosperity promotes HIV prevention

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Abounding Prosperity will launch its new initiative, “Dallas Taking Control,” at a town hall meeting that will be held next week in conjunction with the first South Dallas AIDS walk.

Kirk Myers, Abounding Prosperity’s CEO, said his organization is the only African-American run AIDS organization in South Dallas. The agency’s offices are located across the street from AIDS Arms’ Peabody Clinic.

Among the initiative’s goals are increased access to prevention education and outreach to men who have sex with men, and increasing awareness of the urgency of HIV/AIDS through social networking and increase partnerships.

Myers.Kirk
Kirk Myers

Myers said that while AIDS Arms cares for people with HIV, his organization is dedicated to preventing infection.

 

He referred to the $8 million AIDS Arms is raising for a second clinic.

“Eight million dollars can prevent a lot of HIV cases too,” he said.

He said he isn’t criticizing the work of AIDS Arms, but is questioning the county’s and state’s commitment to promoting awareness and preventing the disease.

The South Dallas AIDS Walk will be held on Saturday, March 19. The Anthony Chisolm AIDS Foundation that scheduled the walk planned a town hall meeting the night before at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Phill Wilson is the featured speaker.

Wilson founded the Black AIDS Institute in 1999. Before that he co-chaired the Los Angeles County HIV Health Commission and was director of policy and planning at AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Wilson.Phill
Phill Wilson

After Wilson speaks, Dallas’ new first lady, State Rep. Barbara Mallory-Carroway, will moderate a panel discussion about the Dallas Taking Control initiative.

Among the panelists will be Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thompson. From the Texas Department of State Health Services, the director and the manager of the TB, HIV and STD division, Felipe Rocha and Dr. Ann Robbins, will appear along with Kevin Jones, a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control.

A study issued by the CDC last year found that gay black men in Dallas had among the highest rates of HIV in the country. Myers called the statistics a disaster and his organization requested a state of emergency in Dallas.

While the state of emergency was denied, Myers said that the panel is a result. He said this is the first time county and state health officials have come together specifically to address the black gay community in Dallas.

Myers said that his organization continues to grow and is receiving more recognition for its work.

Abounding Prosperity operates Prosperity House in South Dallas as a temporary housing providing low-cost transitional housing.

Myers said his agency is looking to expand to provide free temporary housing for at-risk gay black youth aged 17 or older.

……………………………

First South Dallas AIDS Walk steps off on March 19

The Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation will hold the first South Dallas AIDS Walk on Saturday, March 19.

The 5K walk begins and ends at the South Dallas Cultural Center on Fitzhugh Avenue near Fair Park. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m.

“The goal is to inspire, galvanize and rally South Dallas,” the foundation’s executive director, Auntjuan Wiley, said.

He said the dollar goal is $100,000.

“We still need sponsors, vendors, volunteers, walkers and teams,” Wiley said.

At the end of the walk, he said there will be entertainment and children’s activities.

Wiley said the foundation, which began in 2008, provides financial assistance for people with HIV. They help with rent, utility bills, insurance payments and access to medication. Transportation vouchers help clients get to their medical appointments.

For more information, please call Auntjuan Wiley at (214) 455-7316. You may also visit SouthDallasAIDSWalk.org.

The agency also provides HIV and syphilis testing, counseling and referral services. Myers said his group is not a nine-to-five office-hours, HIV testing organization.

“Our goal is to serve the most at-risk people,” he said. “We do it at times convenient to our clientele.”

That includes sending staff to clients’ homes when necessary, Myers said.

Abounding Prosperity also runs substance abuse meetings for men dealing with alcohol and drug problems.

This year, Black Tie Dinner approached the group about applying to become a beneficiary. Myers said the  agency completed and submitted its application and he is waiting to see if Abounding Prosperity is accepted as a beneficiary.

Myers said he appreciated the outreach by Black Tie and added that it confirmed that the work his organization is doing within the black gay community is being recognized beyond the South Dallas community as well.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Focusing on S. Dallas

Wiley says South Dallas AIDS Walk designed to target message of HIV awareness to a different community

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha
Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha

Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas, according to county health officials, and some of the highest morbidity rates in the county are in two zip codes: 75215 and 7521o.

Both of those zip codes are in the South Dallas area, and yet, that area remains dolefully underserved when it comes to HIV/AIDS education, outreach and awareness efforts and HIV/AIDS services, according to longtime AIDS activist and educator Auntjuan Wiley.

“When it comes to HIV services and awareness and outreach, we focus on Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. South Dallas always gets missed,” Wiley said this week. “And the only medical service provider for people with HIV in South Dallas is the Peabody Health Center.”

That’s why, when he was named executive director of the new Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation, Wiley immediately set out to find ways to fill that gap. And when he heard about the idea for an annual South Dallas AIDS Walk from Anthony Chisom, he decided right away to get involved. The first South Dallas AIDS Walk is scheduled for March 19, 2011.

The lead-up to the walk began last Thursday, Nov. 4, with a kick-off party that included Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson and more. Wiley’s co-chair for the walk is AIDS activist Jai Makokha.

Wiley is quick to stress that the South Dallas AIDS Walk is not meant to compete — either for participants or funds — with AIDS Arms’ LifeWalk, held each year in October in Lee Park. The South Dallas event, he said, is targeting a whole different audience.

And the walk “isn’t just all about the Anthony Chisom Foundation,” Wiley added. “Some of the funds will come to us, yes. But we have other beneficiaries, too.”

Those beneficiaries, he said, include The Afiya Center, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health for women and girls; Welcome House, which provides housing and services primarily for African-Americans with HIV/AIDS; the Ugieki Foundation, which focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and education and provides an online project management system for charitable organizations; AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center; and AIDS Interfaith Network.
Wiley explained that well-known interior and floral designer Anthony Chisom began his foundation, which provides financial assistance to people with HIV to help them pay rent and utilities and buy their medications among other things, after a trip to Africa where he saw the devastation the HIV epidemic had caused there.

“He knew then that when he came home he had to do something. He had to get involved. So he started the Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation,” Wiley said.

Wiley said he and his steering committee are working to confirm Phil Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, as keynote speaker and grand marshal for the South Dallas AIDS Walk. But, he said, walk organizers need lots of sponsors, vendors, walkers and volunteers. And he hopes that many of the businesses and civil and faith community leaders in South Dallas will come on as partners in this effort.

He said the involvement of the business, civil and religious leaders will be vital to the walk’s success.

“South Dallas is, historically, a hard community to reach with the AIDS awareness and education messages,” Wiley said. “There is still a lot of the fear and stigma and shame surrounding HIV and AIDS in South Dallas that isn’t as strong any more in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. So it takes a different approach in South Dallas.

“It is very important that we have an aggressive and strategic community engagement piece to this effort. There needs to be a real conversation with the gatekeepers in this community, the community leaders,” he said. “If we can get them involved, then we have a better chance of getting our message to this community.”

Wiley said the walk will be an annual event, because a one-time thing won’t get the message across.

“You can’t go into this community just once with a message and then leave,” he said. “You have to stay there. You have to be visible. You have to let them know we care. We want them to know that this is ‘a walk in South Dallas, for South Dallas.’ That’s our theme.”

While the obvious goal is to raise awareness and funds, “it’s about a lot more than just charity and awareness. It’s about doing the work. Until there is a cure the work has to be done,” said Wiley, who this month marked his 15th year of living with AIDS and this year marked his 20th year of working in the HIV/AIDS field.
Wiley said, “This is about change. Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas. South Dallas has some of the highest infection rates in Dallas County. That has to change. It is just time for a change.”

For more information, contact Auntjuan Wiley by e-mail at a.wiley@anthonychisomaidsfoundation.org or by phone at 214-455-7316.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

HIV testing planned around Dallas on Saturday

AIDS Arms Inc. and Dallas County Health and Human Services have scheduled HIV testing at various locations around Dallas County on Saturday, Sept. 18, which has been declared National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.

According to county HHS Director Zachary Thompson, the 50-and-older population is one group that’s contracting HIV at higher rates than the general population.

Rubin Ramirez of Resource Center Dallas said he thinks people in this age group have become immune to the HIV prevention message because of treatments that are now available.

For more on some new Dallas County HIV/AIDS initiatives, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

Testing times and locations are below:

—  David Taffet