It’s a tribute to perseverance and love in the face of fierce societal turbulence and often-intense private feelings of stigmatization among the people who walk through the doors: HIV Alliance is 25-years-old.
And the nonprofit organization is getting stronger, with medical and educational outreach programs not just in Lane County, where it all began, but HIV-care coordination services in 15 counties in southern Oregon, with more outreach eyed for communities north of Lane County.
“We feel good about what we’ve done,” says Renee Yindell, who has been with HIV Alliance for 16 years as well as serving as its executive director the past three years.
They should feel good about their work. A celebration and benefit for HIV Alliance, the 2019 Summer Soiree, is Saturday, Aug. 24, at The Pearl Day Spa, organized by Sean Vierra and Lily Lunnemann of the spa.
HIV Alliance started in 1994, when HIV/AIDS Resources and Lane County AIDS Hospice Services merged.
“The community stepped up and took care of what needed to be done at the time,” Yindell says.
Since then, with a paid staff of 70 and about 140 volunteers, HIV Alliance has been on the front lines of needle exchange programs as well as HIV testing, hepatitis C testing and counseling services. The testing services accelerated in 2007 with rapid tests for at-risk groups.
The goal is always to reach more people any way possible for evidence-based education, testing and medical services, Yindell says. To that end, the Alliance in 2010 expanded its testing services again with the Social Network Strategy, targeting men who have sex with men.
Annually, HIV Alliance has provided 800 HIV tests and offered its educational services to more than 7,000 youth and adults.
Yindell points with pride to the 2006 launch of the Alliance’s dental program. Gum disease and tooth decay can happen to patients with HIV/AIDS who have other life-and-death medical concerns, notes Yindell.
Partnering with the Lane Community College dental clinic in downtown Eugene and armed with a federal grant, the dental program reaches 21 Oregon counties. It also is an educational boon to students in the LCC dental program, providing students a more hands-on learning experience.
The future looks good for HIV Alliance, but what about the men and women living with HIV or who are in an at-risk demographic?
Some familiar problems persist, Yindell says, notably the stigmatization in society of the men and women diagnosed with HIV.
Other obstacles are more recent, and Yindell worries about complacency among younger people. Newer and highly effective drugs, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), may take an edge off the anxiety, which the older generation living under the cloud of HIV has often dealt with.
PrEP is a daily pill that can help prevent HIV. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines in HIV prevention.
It isn’t cheap. Without insurance, the drug costs close to $2,000 per month. HIV Alliance offers PrEP coordination, working with clients to connect them with a provider and pharmacy that will fill the PrEP prescription, says the organization.
Yet 25 years ago, there seemed to be little hope for people living with or at risk of being diagnosed with HIV. HIV Alliance has taken big steps to help alleviate fear and plug the holes with its care coordination services.
Happy anniversary, HIV Alliance.
For more information about HIV Alliance, go to hivalliance.org or visit HIV Alliance at 1195A City View Street in Eugene. HIV Alliance will have free HIV testing Aug. 10 at Pride in the Park event at Alton Baker Park. The 2019 Summer Soiree, a benefit for HIV Alliance, is 6 to 9 pm, Saturday, Aug. 24, at The Pearl Day Spa, 1375 Pearl Street. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online (thepearldayspa.com) or at the door on the evening of the event.