Meet Cambriae Bates, our new Events Coordinator. She will be handling AIDS Walk Austin as one of her first assignments. We are glad to have her.
“When I was nineteen, I went to a tattoo shop and told the artist that I wanted him to draw an image of a doll parachuting on my back and in the strings I wanted the words, “To live would be an awfully big adventure.” If there is one thing important that everyone should know about me it is that I am an enthusiast of life.
“People always ask me why the HIV and AIDS community when I could be helping out with so many other causes. I always give two reasons. 1) I find happiness in knowing that organizations like ASA help people to live full and vibrant lives. 2) For ten years my aunt had a partner that tested positive for HIV and when she first introduced her to my family I felt everyone in the room cringe. As a curious child, I started doing my own research about HIV and I found out that my family’s behavior was unwarranted. Eventually, they found out facts, erased some of the myths that exist, and realized that my aunt’s partner was not a danger to any of us. As a family, we even created a short film about HIV/AIDS to help build awareness in the Philadelphia community. From then on, I developed a desire to reduce the stigma that surrounds the HIV/AIDS community.
“About seven months ago, my boyfriend and I decided to relocate from Philadelphia because we wanted to embark on a new adventure. Having worked as a development intern at Action Wellness in Philadelphia, I was excited to find the Special Events position on the ASA development team because it gave me a chance to return to the HIV/AIDS services field and I was hired about a week before our move date. I love events because the role gives me the chance to interact with the communities that I serve and there is a lot of creativity that I can implement while planning an event. My hope is that I will be able to truly become an Austinite, add a little extra weirdness to the city, and help the individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS in central Texas to live lives free of stigma and full of joy.
“The first event that I will be working on is the 2016 AIDS Walk that will be held at Palm Park on Sunday, October 16. This year we will have live music acts, food trucks, activities for the whole family and more. Registration is open at aidswalkaustin.org. I am a very easy going person, so if you have any questions about the event give me a call!”
“It is interesting how something so simple could change my life completely.” says Terri Lindgren who works the front desk at AIDS Services home office on Cameron Road.
Terri is the first person most see when they come to the ASA Home office on Cameron Road. She describes her role as “sort of a triage/screener/traffic director. ASA offers so many different services I need to know at least some of what each department does, who does it, and where to send a client. A lot can happen at the front desk and it is usually fast and furious.”
We sat down to chat with her about her time at ASA.
In 1992, my son’s high school art teacher suggested her students be involved in AIDS Walk. I was the Mom who drove the kids to the walk. I fell for the love and spirit of the other walk attendees and felt I had to get involved.
It is interesting how something so simple could change my life completely. I started to volunteer for HIV or related issues. That continued for 17 years until I began working for ASA in March of 2010 full time.
Emotions run full spectrum. Often, when people newly diagnosed, they are terrified. We help them. Some clients come in to the agency in very bad condition (mentally or medically). When I see them improve through our services, it raises my spirits. I have attended funerals of clients whose families abandoned them and ASA staff are the only ones there to tell them goodbye.
Clients often come in under a great amount of stress. They wouldn’t be here if they were in good shape. They receive the support they need. It is a beautiful thing to see them graduate from school, find work or housing, break free of a drug habit, or get control of their health. They walk in with their head held high for the first time in years.
Seeing the success of our clients! Over the past 6 years I have been blessed to see many. It is wonderful to be work at a place that can help impact people in such a positive way. To play a small role in that is an honor.
On the case management side we enable people to become independent again, which is such a major role and long term cost savings for the city. Our prevention team is just phenomenal, hours of dedication are put in to help stop the spread of the disease, coming up with strategies to reach all the different cultures in Austin. Capital Area AIDS Legal Project assisting clients with a variety of legal matters. The work we we do here is of huge benefit to Austin, not just our clients.
Terri is often the first face of ASA that clients new and old see. We are fortunate to have her.
Do you have a story you would like to tell about ASA or your expernce with the HIV community? Send it to me! firstname.lastname@example.org
AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) is proud to announce Chief Programs Officer Susan (Sue) Campion has won a 2016 Health Equity Heroes award. Given by DentaQuest, this national honor focuses on those committed to improving oral health of those in need, and is given in recognition of an individual’s commitment to the basic principle that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, income, sexual orientation or ability should have the opportunity to access resources enabling them to lead healthy lives. Sue embodies all of that and more, and ASA is grateful to call her one of our own and cannot think of a more deserving recipient of this honor.
Last year, Sue led the move and renovation of ASA’s Jack Sansing Dental Clinic. The only standalone clinic providing services to HIV positive people in central Texas, the new state of the art facility can see 1,600 patients a year (a 33% increase), and has increased its ability to serve clients quickly and to complete their treatment plans having a positive impact on their overall health, all in a beautiful and welcoming space.
In addition to her amazing work with the Jack Sansing Dental Clinic, Sue has dedicated more than 25 years to the mission and vision of AIDS Services of Austin, beginning as a volunteer in 1991, then serving as a board member, supporter, and 16 years on staff.
Day in and day out Sue’s experience and passion go to work eliminating the health disparities ASA clients face in the battle to take control of their health. Her strategic guidance and leadership of ASA’s programs and services spans range from legal services, to food and nutrition, to dental care, housing, and HIV prevention. Sue has given tirelessly of herself to help central Texans affected by HIV and AIDS. Thank you for all you do for ASA and the Austin Community Sue, and congratulations on being named a 2016 Health Equity Hero.
The annual Health Equity Hero awards recognize select leaders for their incredible efforts to advance and improve health in communities across the country. Based in Boston, Mass., DentaQuest is the largest oral health company in the Medicaid space in the United States. Along with its charitable DentaQuest Foundation, its clinical DentaQuest Care Group and its educational DentaQuest Institute, its mission is to improve the oral health of all. To learn more about DentaQuest, check out Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and its blog.
We welcome Alberto Barragan as our New Director of Prevention. Recently, I spent a few minutes getting to know Berto (as he prefers to be called), and wanted to share a bit of his story.
Alberto initially spent four years in the military with the U.S. Marine Corps, and also later returned there for a follow-up tour of duty in Afganistan. His time in the military involved serving as a telecommunications engineer; he also helped to run the military switchboard while in Afganistan.
When he left the Marine Corps in 2005, Berto returned to his home near Chicago, where for the first time, he began to seek out volunteer opportunities, specifically in the area of support groups for gay men.
Berto says he grew up not knowing anything about AIDS/HIV. He also sadly admits, “There was no discussion of safe sex practices in the military”. However, everything changed for him, when he was profoundly touched by a close friend in Chicago, who was newly diagnosed as HIV positive and shared that ominous news with him. This friend was only 21 years old at the time. Berto was very disappointed that he found himself “unable to help my friend in some meaningful way after he was diagnosed as positive”. That situation resonated with him to create a new personal priority for wanting to keep others negative and safe from HIV/AIDS, particularly those in their youth. He confesses to always being “deeply affected, when any young person is experiencing the news of becoming newly HIV positive”.
Having been inspired by the cause, he soon became a test counsellor at Project VIDA and eventually assumed the leadership role for support groups within the Chicago agency. In particular he highlights his work there as being focused on various target populations: one being individuals aged 13 to 24, another for those age 25 and above, and a third for high-risk heterosexual men having with a gang influence in their lives.
Being a young man, Berto has moved around quite a bit in recent years. He has spent several years each in Albuquerque and California, as well as more recently in San Antonio. He moved to San Antonio specifically with the idea of maximizing how his income could afford himself a more comfortable lifestyle in Texas versus other places he had lived. He also really wanted to retreat from a cold weather environment.
Berto comes to ASA from the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, where he served in a similar capacity as their Director of Testing. Berto chose to come to ASA because he viewed this as an opportunity for personal growth, in part because he managed a much smaller work team in San Antonio. He also highly values the expansiveness of ASA’s mission, when he says, “ASA’s approach to serving the community is much more holistic, than my previous assignment in San Antonio”.
Berto hopes that people will view him as “easily adaptable” as the new Director of Prevention here at ASA. He truly enjoys working with others and he expects to have success in his new role in large part because of that desire to help others.
One of the main reasons Berto took the Prevention Director position here is that he feels that unlike his previous assignment, ASA already has the mechanisms in place to be able to expand new and existing services within the community. For example, Berto considers ASA to be ahead of the curve when compared to other HIV/AIDS prevention agencies, in that there is a focus here on advocating for PReP as a key prevention strategy.
Three additional strengths of the ASA cultural environment that stand out to him include:
When looking towards an ideal future, Berto aspires, “to see all HIV/AIDS positive persons actively managing their health situations.” In addition, he feels that “Now more than ever, the tools exist to help make prevention much more successful than in the past.”
Berto also believes the time has finally come for success in addressing the obstacles posed within society by both cultural and religious influences. In that regard, he longs to see more comprehensive sex education in schools and would like all HIV negative members of society to choose to include annual testing for HIV, as part of their routine proactive health management plan.
Berto has only been in Austin for only two weeks now. As of yet, he says he does not have a feel for how easy or difficult the transition from San Antonio will be for him.
Berto shared that he feels, “Austin would be better suited to my personal desires, given the emphasis on living an active lifestyle is so prevalent here”. Outside of work at ASA, he is hoping to get involved in one or more of Austin’s gay sports associations. Currently, he is looking at the flag football league just now starting-up here. Berto admits to some recent back issues, but hopes his physical stature will make him a good candidate for an interior lineman on a prospective team. Berto predicts he can make an impression there by, “showing off some of my fancy moves”, and good-naturedly hopes that will compensate for any liability in “not being able to run very fast!” Berto says he might also consider Austin’s softball or volleyball leagues as well.
Continuing with our Open House, we move on to CDN and take a look at our testing van.
Each month, CDN distributes 3,300 volunteer-assembled safe sex kits to 81 sites in the city. Each kit contains condoms, lubricant packets, a prep chart, and a card with ASA testing sites and hours. CDN also takes a holistic,
community-based approach to prevention by providing personal hygiene kits to Austin’s homeless population (shaving supplies, dental products, soap, hand sanitizer, etc.) and risk reduction kits that reduce the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users.
CDN is always looking for volunteers and is a fantastic space for group volunteering; as Volunteer Manager Megan Satterfield put it, “Come relax, have snacks, make packs!”
The “mobile office” of ASA, the testing van recently received a paint job make-over from Marcus Sanchez for easy recognition around town. The van, which brings many new clients to ASA, has two testing areas with comfy seats where those wanting to be tested can receive one-on-one attention behind closed doors. Different tests are performed based on initial risk assessment, including syphilis and Hepatitis C tests for high-risk individuals. “The idea is to meet people where they are at,” said Testing Manager Camarion Anderson. “We are taking our services to the community in a sacred space. Whether we are directly affected by this or not, we are all educators. When we open our mouths and say something positive, we affirm that person can continue to thrive.”
The van goes out each week to 4 main sites in the city, including Austin’s popular downtown gay district. For days, times and locations, check the ASA website.
The HIV pandemic is far from over, but ASA is grassroots testament to the power of community and respect to fight the disease and support those in need. “Thirty years ago, all we could really offer HIV positive people was compassion and respite care,” said executive director Paul Scott. “Now, we’ve gone from holding people’s hands at their deathbed to holding them up with our hands, and letting them go to live their lives.”
Our Monthly Open House is open to the public. Register here.
“Free Your Mind, Know Your Status” is a call to action emended in the art wrapping the side of ASA’s testing van. The artwork was created by ASA staff member, Marcus Sanchez. In between ground-up community building at The Q and prepping for the upcoming sixteenth annual Art Erotica show, we sat down with Marcus to talk about the van art, community outreach, and how creativity plays a role in HIV/AIDS activism and support.
What was the concept behind the artwork?
Free Your Mind, Know Your Status came from the prevention team. We wanted something that really spoke to clients – when we took the van out to high risk neighborhoods, people had a lot of anxiety and stress over getting tested. It was the street outreach team that conceptualized the idea, and I stepped in with the art. I looked at other testing vans that had a lot of digital art, but I wanted something hand made with a DIY feel to reflect Austin’s unique art culture. But we also wanted something that spoke to all the communities we serve within Austin; after all, the skyline looks different depending on which side of the bridge you are on. I decided to go with a sort of tattoo flash art design, something colorful and inviting that is easy for everyone to relate to. There are also no red ribbons or symbols that are overtly associated with HIV/AIDS, to reduce fear of stigmatization.
What was the creation process like? What medium was used to create the art?
We talked to Q clients and worked closely with focus groups concerning women and people of color. We wanted to know, “What would make you more inclined to step in the van and get tested?” I made the initial artwork mostly from watercolor, ink, and colored pencil, and it was really interesting to see how my art translated onto the van.
Do you feel like the art has a positive affect on people getting tested?
It has definitely opened the conversation up for a lot of new people. Sometimes when we are parked downtown at the clubs, people approach us thinking it’s a party bus. Even if they don’t get tested that day, it piques their curiously and starts a dialogue about sexual health and safer sex. It’s a conversation piece, especially since the slogan is written in English and Spanish. Our goal is always communication and outreach with the community, and it is helping us do just that.
Do you believe there is a place for art in the work ASA does?
Absolutely! At The Q, for example, we have rotating art from community. It brings people to the space and reaches them in a relatable way.
Do you have any other artistically inclined projects in mind for ASA programs?
Right now at The Q, we’ve created a SXSW campaign where we are partnering with the City of Austin and other nonprofits to create bus ads and wrist bands to get the word out in the community. I’m also participating in Art Erotica for the Paul Kirby Emergency Fund. Specifically, I’m working with the Penis Project: I make plaster molds of penises and give to artists to decorate however they like. At the show, they will all be auctioned off. There’s a Vagina Project, too!
Nori Hubert contributed to this article.