In this Issue
Hope you are well! It’s August in Tucson, but there’s so much going on! Here are a few events and announcements you’ll want to know about. Hope to see you soon, and thanks for your support of TIHAN and our work!
June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. That occasion prompted me to sit down and write about my annual HIV test, and much more. I’ll appreciate it if you will take a minute and read this post. Today is National HIV Testing Day. Earlier this month, I went in for my regular HIV test. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking, even though I do my best to minimize risk (but any sexual contact short of abstinence has some risk, however small). If the test comes back positive for HIV, it’s best to know sooner because now (unlike the old days) there are exceptionally effective medications … For the rest of Scott’s note, click here. Today is National HIV Testing Day. Earlier this month, I went in for my regular HIV test. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking, even though I do my best to minimize risk (but any sexual contact short of abstinence has some risk, however minimal). If the test result comes back positive for HIV, it’s best to know sooner because now (unlike the old days) there are exceptionally effective medications to treat HIV and keep yourself healthy and focus on getting to an undetectable level of virus.
If the test comes back negative for HIV, you can move forward and continue taking precautions to keep your risk level as low as you would like. And it’s also a good time to get checked out not just for HIV but also for all sexually-transmitted infections, because some STIs don’t always have symptoms and you might not know until you get tested. I realize that there are many reasons that some people are not able or ready to get tested, and I respect that. But please know that there is support available to help you through the fear of getting tested, and the fear of your test coming back positive. Your local health department is a great resource for HIV information and testing, and know that TIHAN (Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network) is here for you, and me too.
My test results? I don’t often talk about my HIV status because 1) it’s personal and I don’t have to share anything with anyone unless and until I want to, 2) many people assume that, because of my life’s work, I must be HIV-positive (and they can make their own assumptions however they wish), and 3) sometimes I like to keep people guessing (and then see if they treat me any differently based on what they think my HIV status is). Many of my friends living with HIV have faced stigma and discrimination (in both blatant and subtle forms) because of their HIV status, and I stand in solidarity with them and I work to educate people and to increase understanding while decreasing HIV stigma and bias. And to ensure that no one has to face living with HIV alone. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be loved and accepted and given a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and HIV status should not change that.
So if I told you that I tested positive for HIV, what would go through your mind? What might be your unfiltered thoughts? What if I were a woman who tested positive, what thoughts would you have about me? What if I were homeless and had HIV—what might your thoughts be? If I were someone with a history of drug use or alcohol use and got a positive test result? What if I were heterosexual and got HIV? What if I were a married suburban housewife with HIV, or a young Latino male who has sex with men, or a wealthy white businessman, or a young black professional? If we’re honest with ourselves, we all probably have some subconscious thoughts and judgments that we make about people, based on unexplored biases and experiences that we don’t like and/or don’t want to have.
We must work to be aware of them and not let them impact how we treat people. No one deserves to get HIV. No one deserves to be prejudged for who they are based on their HIV status. No one deserves to be stigmatized or discriminated against. It still happens, and it’s often insidious and done by those who are otherwise caring people who don’t realize that they’re doing it. And of course there are some judgmental people filled with hate and looking for a target to express their hate, but those are a small–but loud–minority, and we will work hard to drown out their voices and stop their hurtful words and actions.
So today, in addition to considering if it’s time for your annual (or maybe every 3-6 month) HIV test, it’s also a great day to think about your own beliefs and actions about HIV and to commit to doing something to decrease HIV stigma, to increase your own understanding and the HIV knowledge of people you know and care about, and to take action to support people who have been subjected to stigma and discrimination.
If you have not had to suffer from losing friends and family and a job and housing and if you have never been looked upon as “dirty” or “bad” or “less than,” then you have been blessed. And with that blessing (I believe) comes a responsibility to reach out and support others who have not had such “blessed” circumstances, and to help create a community where people are loved and included and affirmed and supported–regardless of actual or perceived HIV status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, color, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, national origin, veteran status, substance abuse history, able-ness, gender, religious belief (or lack thereof), marital status, veteran status, mental health, familial status, criminal history, or any other part of a person’s identity and experience.
LOVE IS LOVE, and people are people — complex, nuanced humans, with complicated backgrounds that no one other than ourselves fully know and understand, all trying to do the best we can with the tools we have been given.
Today is National HIV Testing Day. Think about it. And do something, too.
Oh, and my HIV test result? Negative. But I will never lose sight of the fact that my life and circumstances could have easily been very different. There is a saying that is sometimes tinged with guilt and judgment: “That could have been me,” or “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I don’t know why I was born white, male, on this side of the US border, with decent genes and good parents with jobs and a relatively stable life and good educational opportunities, and the support to be an out, proud gay male. But I was. Of course, I’ve faced some challenges and made some wise decisions and some decisions I might now second-guess.
But I’ve been blessed with some amazing inspirational friends and teachers and incredible opportunities. And I want to be able to say, with what I have been given in this life, with many privileges that others don’t have…. I want to be able to say–not on my deathbed–but say it today and tomorrow and every tomorrow, that I have done my part–not enough perhaps, but the best I feel I can do–to make this world, and the people around me, a little bit better. And if that HIV test were to come back positive, I would hope that I would say that same thing.
Welcoming Our New Program Coordinator, Christiana!
Please join us in welcoming TIHAN’s new Program Coordinator, Christiana Owusu-Ankomah. She’ll be overseeing TIHAN’s Link Specialist program, which connects people living with HIV to resources and support, and our Living Well with HIV classes of information, skills, support, and empowerment. She can be reached at ProgramCoordinator@tihan.org and 520-299-6647 ext 207.
Deodorant Donations Desired
Last year, in a survey of registered TIHAN CarePartners, we asked about the most important toiletry items or cleaning supplies in our CarePackages. We learned that, in addition to the toilet paper and paper towels that are always in highest demand, deodorant is among the top 5 requested items. Can you help us ensure that every CarePackage distributed to CarePartners living with HIV includes a stick of deodorant? You might look for “buy one, get one free” sales, or visit a dollar store. We need both men’s and women’s deodorant, with more needed for men. Please bring donations to the TIHAN office at 2660 N. 1st Ave during business hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Thank you for helping us to respond to this need.
Honoring the Contributions of Ann Baldwin
We celebrate the life and love of Ann Baldwin, who passed away in Canada on July 25. Ann’s two decades of support of TIHAN included serving on our Board of Directors as well as being a key part of the success of our Treasures for TIHAN auction for many years. We honored Ann in 2009 as one of our 10 Mothers Who Make A Difference, and in 2015 we presented her with a special-created TIHAN edition “Ben’s Bell” for her kindness. Her compassion and generosity have blessed all of the CarePartners, volunteers, staff, and donors who have been a part of TIHAN. Funeral services are being held in her beloved Kelowna, and a gathering of Tucson friends will be held this fall. Ann’s obituary is available here. May the blessing of her life be forevermore remembered.
Some people are SO committed to TIHAN’s mission of supporting the needs of people living with HIV, that they will do some crazy things for the cause! Case in point: members of some local businesses and groups are doing a “turnabout” and putting on a show to benefit TIHAN – Turnabout for TIHAN, our second largest fundraising event of the year. This year’s event will take place on Sunday, September 3 at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel at Reid Park, and we hope you can join us for this 21st annual event that has raised over $250,000 since its inception! Tucson’s LGBTQ and gay-friendly businesses and nonprofit are getting ready to entertain us – music, dance, drag, burlesque, comedy, and more! Always one of the wildest nights of the year, Turnabout for TIHAN is a fabulous evening of glitz and glamour, heart and humor. This is a show with adult themes and content, so it’s 18-and-over. Show tickets are on sale for $15 in advance (or a table of 10 for $150), or $20 at the door, and are available through the TIHAN office (520-299-6647, 2660 N. 1st Avenue) between 8:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri or online anytime at https://tihan.ejoinme.org/turnabout2017 We have lots of volunteer opportunities to help with the event — on the morning of, the evening of, and the day after the event. It’s easy to sign up–all you have to do is get in touch with Dennisse, our Volunteer Coordinator at 299-6647 x206 or VolunteerCoordinator@tihan.org.
Volunteer Appreciation Ice Cream Social
On Tuesday July 18th, TIHAN celebrated our fabulous volunteers at the annual “Ice Cream Social!” Volunteers and guests enjoyed yummy Ice Cream in many different flavors with lots of toppings. Volunteers and guests also got to know each other and shared laughs with some interactive fun. And two lucky volunteers won a raffle prize! Volunteers and staff enjoying an afternoon together and working towards a common goal is what TIHAN is all about. If these types of events sound like something you would like to be a part of, please contact Dennisse, Volunteer Coordinator, at 520-299-6647 ext 206 or VolunteerCoordinator@tihan.org
More Volunteer Opportunities Available on TIHAN’s Website!
Where can you find out about current volunteer opportunities with TIHAN? On TIHAN’s website! Go to tihan.org, click on “Volunteer” at the top of the page, then on “Volunteer Opportunities” near the top left corner. Browse through the listings, click on a few you think you’d enjoy, and we’ll be in touch soon to help you get started! Here are a few of the roles for which we’re currently recruiting:
- Operations Assistant
- CareTeam Volunteer
- Link Specialist Volunteer
- Administrative Assistant for Care & Support Programs
- Marketing Committee Member
- Community Ambassador (Information Tabling Volunteer)
We hope to find caring and compassionate people for these roles. If you think you can help, and would like to see if you have the talents and skills to be a good match for any of these, contact Dennisse at (520) 299-6647 ext 206 or VolunteerCoordinator@tihan.org.