You’ve probably heard us talk about the amazing volunteers we have at The Q and how vital they are to Mpowerment. We like to share the cool work and events happening in our space so I just have to tell you about last night!
Texas Department of State Health Services conducted a focus group with our Core Group of volunteers to talk about PrEP and get an idea of the knowledge and conversations young MSM are having. We had 19 dedicated volunteers in attendance and they were ready to have a real conversation about PrEP. We heard about their own experiences with accessing PrEP, stigma, and concerns as well as what they hear from their friends and other sources like social media and hook up apps. The facilitators were blown away by the amount of knowledge, humor, honesty, and dedication to sexual health promotion in the room. I myself was speechless at times to hear how much these guys are not only getting from the Mpowerment Project, but taking what they learn to their own social circles. We were the first of several focus groups to be held throughout the state and the facilitators were in agreement that our guys have set the bar pretty high. I also want to thank the staff who were there to participate and support!
– Marcus Sanchez, Mpowerment Coordinator
On behalf of the board, volunteers, staff and—most of all—our clients, thank you for seizing the moment and supporting of AIDS Services of Austin. The generous gifts donated through Amplify Austin are vital to the success of our 11 award winning and life changing programs and the more than 7,000 Central Texans who depend on them.
In total, our supporters raised more than $115,000 which will be amplified by a matching gift from the St. David’s Foundation. Over 600 non-profits participated this year, and because of your support, ASA was among the top ten for the second straight year. Your generosity will provide critical support services, as well as food, medicine, dental care, legal services, social support, and countless other day-to-day needs of Central Texans living with HIV and AIDS.
Gifts like yours helped us serve more than 1400 people living with HIV and AIDS and provided prevention education to over 7,600 in our community last year! Every day, your support goes to work in our community, touching the lives of countless individuals. Individuals like Denise.
When Denise found out she was HIV positive she says, “It was like a bucket of ice water had been pour over me. I felt numb.” But with the help of ASA, Denise moved from a place of confusion into a position of knowledge and power, building important skills and feeling better every day about her journey. The fulltime guardian of her granddaughter, Denise has important years ahead of her, thanks to her work with ASA she “knows I’ll be around to help her.”
We could not do this work without the commitment of supporters like you. Today is an awesome reminder of our communities commitment to the health and well-being of the community and people affected by HIV and AIDS.
For all of this, and so much more, we thank you for helping ASA support the people most in need.
The following is a letter from Paul Scot, Executive Director of ASA, published in the ASA UPDATE newsletter.
There are pivotal moments in our lives that send us in a new direction – sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance, and sometimes by fate. For our clients, those moments can cover a wide range of opportunities. AIDS Services of Austin’s staff and volunteers are here to help in those moments: the moment to educate how the use of a condom reduces HIV transmission, the moment you get an HIV test to know your status, the moment you accept the need for help accessing medical services, housing, dental care, food for you and your family, or a helping hand.
For many of our supporters, that pivotal moment was when they looked into the eyes of a loved one or friend and heard them say, “I am HIV positive.” That moment was a catalyst to become educated, to start volunteering, to provide financial support, or to hold that loved one or friend a little closer.
Right now, it is important to stop and realize how much HIV is still impacting our lives and community. On February 24, 2016, the CDC reported from the 2016 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston: “…at current diagnosis rates, half of black gay men and a quarter of Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV within their lifetime.” Take a moment to think about what that could mean: If we don’t change strategies, expand healthcare and address health disparities, one-half of black gay man and one-quarter of Hispanic gay men will become positive.
AIDS Services of Austin is working to address health disparities with mobile testing and HIV education and outreach. The Q Austin is building new relationships in diverse communities to build social networks and to have sex-positive conversations. We continue to make the most of each moment to educate about the impact of HIV on a person’s life and on our community. Please take a moment to think about how you can help – volunteer with ASA, have a conversation with a friend about getting tested or getting on PrEP to prevent HIV transmission, or make a contribution through Amplify Austin. That moment can make a larger difference in the life of someone you care about.
Open House Showcases Programs and Volunteers – Part 1
On February 9, AIDS Services of Austin hosted the second of its Monthly open house at its Cameron Road offices. Open to the public, the aim of the occasion: “to foster communication with the Austin community on why ASA is so important,” said Executive Director Paul Scott. Since opening its doors in 1987, ASA has provided invaluable support and validation to people living with HIV and AIDS in Central Texas – but the mission does not end with medical care. As Board Member Patrick Roth put it, “We have the tools to put a stop to this epidemic right now – by getting out in the community. ASA and other grassroots organizations are the only ones really doing it.” And as pointed out by Board Member and pro-bono client attorney Fred Suttan, the need for community-based care is just as evident in 2016 as in the initial epidemic of the 1980s and 90s: “It’s shocking that in Austin, Texas, in 2016, someone can be threatened with disclosure of their status to yield influence, especially those of limited means. Clients are always so grateful for the work we do.”
Part of engaging the community means highlighting those initiatives fueled by the volunteers who donate their time and energy to improve the health and wellbeing of HIV positive Central Texans and those at risk. The Open House was one hour and included lunch along with a short tour of the facility by Paul Scott. It gave visitors a close up of three integral ASA care and prevention programs.
Helping Hands Food Bank
The food bank is entirely volunteer run, with an average of 200 volunteers clocking in each year – a total of 4,000 hours were logged in 2015 alone! It is designed as a supplementary nutrition program to keep clients healthy and make medication adherence easier with balanced nutrition. Serving on average 200 clients a month, it provides a variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs, and proteins, including vegetarian-friendly options. Items are individually packaged in single servings to make meal planning and prep easier. Additionally, household items and personal hygiene products are provided on a rotating basis each month. Helping Hands is also one of the few food banks in Texas serving up vegetable juice, and is partnered with Austin non-profit Urban Roots to supply clients with organic produce options.
Unlike many other nutrition assistance programs, Helping Hands clients are able to customize their own monthly menus, allowing them to exercise autonomy in their healthcare regime by choosing what goes into their bodies. “We put the emphasis on client choice,” said Food Bank Director Jennifer Searight, “and it’s much nicer than getting a random box!”
The food bank is open twice a month, 3 days a week. To qualify, clients must be at or below the federal poverty level and must be case-managed, though not necessarily through ASA.
Our Monthly Open House is open to the public. register here.
Thank you Nori Hubert for submitting this post.
Brenda was born and raised in Austin. She attended Reagan High School on the north side of town. In 2012, she found herself homeless and HIV-positive.
When you are homeless, it is hard to enough to find shelter and warmth, get a regular meal, and find a safe place to sleep at night. The smallest things become huge obstacles. Keeping appointments with doctors is hard without transportation. Receiving, storing, and adhering to life-saving HIV medications is difficult. Your health becomes secondary.
Brenda came to ASA for help. ASA case manager, Illene, assisted with stable housing, but Brenda was still struggling with keeping regular appointments and adhering to her HIV medication.
Brenda enrolled in ASA’s Positive Living through Understanding (PLUS) Program. The PLUS Program helps people develop life skills that enable them to keep appointments and improve medication adherence. Participants gain control of their health and improve their HIV viral suppression.
Brenda thrived under the PLUS Program. She gained control over her HIV. And her mental and physical transformation was remarkable. She is proud of her progress. “ASA taught me to just take it one day at a time and do short term goals,” she says. “Its amazing how I can see some of my high school friends and they recognize me right off…Everybody says I look great and haven’t changed a bit.”
“[ASA] made a big difference… I feel real good that I am healthy and strong with a roof over my head.”
“I have to come to understand that I need to take things one thing at a time… It’s getting better all the time.”
Brenda says of her HIV status:
“It’s not nothing that I wanted to hide from anybody… but I have to be cautious of sharing because people take just a little bit and run with it. A lot of people are still ignorant [about HIV]…Once I got my medication, I started to feel better and look better… People are looking at me hard… friends are like ‘she don’t look no different’.”
“To everybody who is HIV positive…It’s not a death sentence anymore. If you take your medication, you can be fine… If you take your medication, you can live a long, long life.”
Brenda took small steps that lead to positive changes in her life. You can too! By taking the step to donate to ASA, you can help central Texans like Benda take control of their health and improve HIV viral suppression.
Forrest Letson always knew he wanted a career in radio. “I’ve always been a Top 40 guy,” he says, “I did dance in Austin and San Francisco and have a passion for dancing, so I decided to fuse the two together.” Forrest, also known as Partyboy Bueller, fused these two passions to create Partyboy Radio, a round-the-clock station on Live365. The station features Top 40 hits from artists like Drake, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift. And Forrest’s favorite artist right now? Justin Bieber. “I’ve got Bieber fever!” he admits.
Forrest began working in the Austin radio scene when he was only 15 years old. After living in cities like Dallas and Palm Springs, he returned to his home town and decided to start the radio station. “It was my dad’s idea,” he says, noting that Partyboy Radio is a son and pop operation. Forrest handles the programming, music, and talent, while his dad is “more of the engineer.”
Like any job, there are challenges. “Sometimes we are under pressure to put a show together last minute – a guest cancels…[it’s] live radio, these things are going to happen,” says Forrest, who adds that it’s mostly really fun work. He likes for his staff to “have creative freedom. I want everyone to present their personalities on air. [We] welcome differences in variety…we have drag queens on air.”
Forrest is proud that Partyboy Radio is one of the only LGBT-owned stations in Central Texas. Anyone can listen by downloading the Live365 app and using the keyword: partyboy. Listeners can also check out the personalities at http://www.partyboyradio.com. The station is expanding their staff and currently interviewing for spots. For more information, contact Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday, December 12th, Partyboy Radio is hosting the Winter Masquerade Ball which will benefit AIDS Services of Austin. The organization is near to Forrest’s heart, saying that ASA “[focuses] on a very holistic approach to living with HIV and AIDS. It’s important for people to be more educated about HIV and AIDS.” Forrest often mentions on his shows about the importance of this. “I always encourage people to check out ASA, get tested, know their status, and learn [how] you can live with HIV and how to deal with stigma.”
He continues, “Education is the number one priority. I am part of the LGBT community and ten years ago I didn’t understand what [HIV] was. I started having friends come out and tell me they were positive, and I was forced to learn more about it.” Guests at the Winter Masquerade Ball are encouraged to wear something red to show their support for HIV and AIDS awareness.
The Masquerade Ball will feature a fun array of musicians and entertainers. Sarah Jane, a rock star flute player, is on the lineup alongside the blues sounds of Busk Walkers and The Swamp Bats. Female impersonators Mechelle Marco, Kelly Kline, and Goldie Haynes will be performing individually on stage. And don’t forget the go-go dancers, Jello shots, and cupcakes! Dress is cocktail attire. Entry is free, and all proceeds from the evening will benefit ASA.
You can learn more by checking out the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1207045079322639/. Special shout outs go to Carrie Steffen, Richard Letson, Gino and Ashley, and all of the volunteers that evening. Thanks also to sponsors Lagunitas Brewing Company, The Metropolis Apartments, Package Menswear and Wake and Bake. Partyboy Bueller is also the founder of Partyboys Do Good that raises money for various charities. The event details are at partyboysdogood.moonfruit.com.
Get your masquerade mask and red attire ready, and we’ll see you on December 12th!