Allow us to introduce Michelle Mussett, our Eligibility and Intake Coordinator. She has worked with us since November 2016 and was kind enough to answer some random questions for us.
Keep an eye out for more staff spotlights in the future!
– Before working at ASA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
The most interesting job I’ve had was with a university based nonprofit that worked to expunge criminal records…Criminal histories have a shocking impact on your ability to successfully re-enter and make you automatically ineligible for many state and federal programs, including access to student loans. With an expungement, you can start fresh, but it is a process that is really often only known to high-income ex-offenders who have private lawyers to educate them. I had never worked in a legal capacity before, and it was really exciting to learn about this broken aspect of our society and connect with ex-offenders.
– How did you first learn about ASA?
When I first moved to Austin 2 years ago, I was researching nonprofits that I really wanted to get involved with …It’s really important to me to work in a place that is inclusive and reflects my own values and passions.
I was impressed with ASA’s vision and goals and kept checking for open positions. I have social worker friends in the community that always spoke highly of ASA’s reputation, services, and commitment to its clients.
– What’s your favorite thing about ASA?
I love my co-workers and clients! My best days at work are when I get to hear client’s stories and can set them up with the resources they want and need. Being a supportive and compassionate listener is so important, but providing the tools to take action is one step better.
– What book did you read last?
I’m currently reading “A Little Life”, which is a generally devastating book about four friends in NY and all the horrible things that happen in their lives. But it’s great!…I like to get as involved and absorbed as possible, so I mostly stick to multi book series that are 15000+ pages.
– Motto or personal mantra?
I am always trying to push myself to do new things and approach decisions and experiences in my life with an open mind. I really love a line from fearless Emily Dickenson, “If your Nerve deny you, go above your Nerve.”
– Best vacation you’ve been on?
I’m very lucky to have close friends in the Foreign Service, and every year I visit whatever country they are living in. This previous May I went to Ethiopia for several weeks and visited the Bale Mountains, which is home to the rare Ethiopian wolf and the highest plateau in Ethiopia. It also contains some lowlands with amazing jungles chock full of warthogs, baboons, and nyalas (a big antelope). I spend all my free time when possible going on safaris in various places/biomes and hanging out with zoologists.
For National HIV Testing Day this year AIDS Services of Austin aims to test 100 people in 24 hours. We will offer expanded testing at two different locations. We will expand testing at The Q Austin as well as have a cookout to draw summer students as well as those who might be available during a lunch break or immediately after work. We will be partnering with Central Health Empowerment Clinic (CHE) to offer additional testing options for the awareness day. CHE will be testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea from 3 pm to 7 pm while ASA will be screening for HIV, Syphilis and Hep C the entire day from 12 pm to 7 pm.
Walgreens will partner with us again this year to offer expanded testing options for the community on both June 27th and June 28th from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Walgreens on Riverside Drive.
Alberto Barragan, AIDS Services of Austin director of prevention, says that the treatment of HIV and AIDS has become a manageable disease. “We have the tools today to end the HIV epidemic. But we have to work together as a community to make it happen! We work hard to educate the community about their risk factors and prevention options. Prevention doesn’t always look the same for everybody. Some people prefer condoms, some abstinence, and other PrEP and condoms. At ASA meet people where they’re at and help them find the right solution that works best for them.”
Help ASA reach our goal of 100 tested this year for National HIV Testing Day! Come by one of our testing sites and spread the word on your social media using #TestATX! ASA has set up several Snapchat geofilters at each testing site to make it easy for folks to invite their family and friends, while also normalizing the process of routine HIV and STI testing.
What: The Q Austin hosts a cookout for National HIV Testing Day (NHTD).
When: June 27th, 2017 from 12-7 pm.
Where: The Q Austin,
2906 Medical Arts
Austin, TX 78705
Walgreens, 3-7pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 27th and 28th.
1920 E Riverside Dr
Austin, TX 78741
Fundraising events are more than just opportunities to raise money for noble causes, they are opportunities to unite communities around vital issues. Dining Out For Life, a one day dining event in which restaurants join together in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is an event about raising awareness and coming together to uplift our friends and neighbors that are in need of support. With the assistance of event sponsors like Avita Pharmacy, ASA has been able to produce some amazing events that impact our clients and cater to the mission of our agency. Recently, we were able to pick the brain of our Dining Out For Life presenting sponsor and find out why the ASA mission and vision resonates with their company!
Question: Why does Avita care about ASA’s mission?
Answer: Avita cares about ASA’s mission because of their unwavering support and service in the HIV/AIDS community and their commitment to fighting stigma. Our values are parallel, and we are working towards the same goals as ASA. We are proud to call them a partner.
Question: In what ways does Avita see HIV impacting its neighboring communities?
Answer: With 7 locations across the south, we have seen firsthand how HIV/AIDS has impacted our communities. Our region continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV; we must do better at providing access to education, testing, and treatment. We need to continue fighting stigma. Though we’ve come very far, there is still more work to do.
Question: From Avita’s point of view, how has HIV changed over the years and why must the fight continue?
Answer: HIV is a continuing fight, but is no longer a death sentence. A person with HIV can now live a normal life with proper medical care and medications. But while the progress is encouraging, HIV remains a very real problem within our communities. It is important to continue the fight against HIV to work towards further advancements in the treatment of HIV and to make positive strides in fighting stigma.
Question: If you could give someone one reason to dine out during Dining Out For Life, what would you say?
Answer: Dining Out For Life is as easy as eating at one of your favorite participating restaurants with friends and family. Celebrate a life, past or present, and support ASA in their mission to enhance the health and well-being of the community and people affected by HIV/AIDS. Dine Out, Save Lives!
In this second of two installments, ASA is again spotlighting one of our DOFL Ambassador volunteers, Amy Rudy. This time, Amy provides her inspiration to others by sharing her view about the ease with which you may serve as an Ambassador. She says, “This is a super simple way to feel good about yourself. The role is even easy for someone brand new!”
Amy figured out pretty quickly how to come up to speed with what was needed and how she could be most effective. “All you have to do is go to a meeting where you’re given training for the event. ASA will give you a choice of restaurants, so you can select your favorite.” You can choose a place that you know is popular or one that is a convenient location for you. In the Ambassador training session, “they give you all the resources you’ll need to take with you.”
Knowing the DOFL date several months ahead of time this year is also a great advantage, because it presents the opportunity to involve your friends at the same time. Amy recommends reaching out to friends early to invite them to join you at your restaurant of choice (something she also did last year). Amy knows that, “Word of mouth is a great way to get people engaged to come out to eat, while supporting a good cause at the same time.” Being a DOFL Ambassador turned out to be a great opportunity for her and a close friend to do something together, while at the same time, reuniting themselves with even more friends which they had not seen in a long time.
What is more, “In general, people in attendance felt really good knowing they were part of a community.” As a result, Amy also raised a good bit of additional funds for ASA that evening, simply by offering donation envelopes to patron diners who wanted to do even more personally to support the agency.
Amy hopes that this year, you’ll find the inspiration to become a DOFL Ambassador like her. If you would like to be join the cause as an ambassador or table captain, please contact ASA Volunteer Manager Megan Satterfield (at Megan.email@example.com or call 512-406-6417) to learn how you can get involved for this year’s DOFL on Tuesday, April 25th too! Ambassador training sessions are being held now through April 17th.
Today we want to shine a spotlight on one of our Dining Out For Life (DOFL) volunteers, Amy Rudy. In this first of two spotlights on Amy, she shares her personal story with you about why she chooses to participate as an Ambassador for DOFL.
“When my close friend mentioned she was going to a meeting at ASA for DOFL Ambassador training, I decided to tag along to see what it was all about. I ended up signing up to be an ambassador too and my friend and I partnered together at El Alma during the event. The night was fun and easy; we basically just hung out,” explained Amy.
As ambassadors, Amy Rudy and her friend set up their own table with a tablecloth and flowers at the front door, and chatted with the diners who entered the restaurant. Amy deeply believes that, “Ambassadors are really important to the fundraising success of the DOFL event.” She says that ambassadors at the restaurants help to ensure that word of the event is able to spread amongst the diners in attendance, and also ensure that ASA’s communication materials don’t get hidden at the hostess stand or left on a table and ignored. “Without an ambassador, DOFL would not have had the same emphasis at the restaurant.”
Events like DOFL move Amy because her brother Donald passed away from AIDS many years ago. Her personal loss has ignited her to get more involved in spreading awareness; she has even kindled that same passion in her daughter, Ellie.
When asked why AIDS awareness is still relevant today, Amy explained that, “Awareness these days is mainly about the young people in my life, like my 18 year old daughter and her friends. Young people like them are not receiving all the information they need, and/or are not receiving it from credible sources. I don’t want all the progress that has been made to cause kids not to realize the danger of the disease. Everyone should be protected, responsible, and aware, because there’s still no cure.”
If you would like to be involved in this meaningful and easy task, please consider contacting ASA Volunteer Manager Megan Satterfield (at Megan.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-406-6417) to learn how you can be an Ambassador for this year’s DOFL on Tuesday, April 25th too!
First, let me introduce myself. My name’s Jen Searight and I’ve been the Food Bank Coordinator at ASA for just over 2 years. Next week is my last week here. It was a tough decision, but I’m leaving my role here to travel around the world. I’ve been researching my trip for quite a while and recently turned my attention to CDC recommendations for vaccinations. Travel inoculations are nothing new, but as I perused the CDC pages for country-by-country information, I was struck by the travel restrictions that exist for people living with HIV and AIDS.
It’s 2017. When it comes to safety and travel, there are a long list of concerns that a traveler has to consider. Indeed, foreign policy and national security are not just governmental concerns; decisions made have ramifications in individuals’ lives. HIV-related travel restrictions do not often make headlines, but these deserve our attention. According to a United Nations report from 2009, these strictures lack “…connection to some rational purpose in terms of an effective global or national response to the HIV epidemic, nor have they been clearly justified in terms of their being necessary or effective in protecting public health or the public purse.” If the UNAIDS is willing to take a stand against these, the UN’s member states should be willing to revisit their policies.
The United Nations currently recognizes 193 entities. These sovereign nations are at liberty to develop their own policy regarding entry and exit, visas, refugees, etc. These countries are also at liberty to enforce travel restrictions for people living with HIV. Fortunately, most member states do not. Our own United States of America only rescinded our HIV-related travel restrictions in 2010. Before January 4, 2010, non-U.S. citizens who were HIV-positive could not be admitted to the United States unless granted a waiver by the Department of Homeland Security. President George W. Bush’s changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act were a quiet leap forward in equality.
Internationally, there is no doubt that work needs to be done. According to AIDSmap.com‘s Travel Restrictions page, “a number of countries restrict entry for people with HIV. This means that foreigners with HIV may be refused entry, denied permission to work or settle, or even be deported.” For my trip, I’ll need to carry proof of my yellow fever inoculation. And if I was going to Taiwan for more than 3 months, according to Plus magazine, I’d be required to take an HIV test and would face deportation for a positive result.
UNAIDS tracks travel restrictions, but changing political climates mean that planning a trip will require intensive research on a country-by-country basis. Most countries do not advertise their HIV-related travel restrictions openly. Even cursory research does not yield conclusive results in many cases. Still, this is not all bad news. Check out this UNAIDS’ infographic. Prepared in 2015, it’s slightly out-of-date–more and more countries are doing away with their restrictions. While progress is slow, if current trends continue, HIV-related travel restrictions are on their way out. And if you ask this traveler, it’s about time.