Devastating and Discriminatory Actions Coming Out of Our Nation’s Capital

Friends,
The devastating and discriminatory actions coming out of our nation’s capital over the last 24 hours have been heartbreaking and difficult to digest. It’s hard to express the increased frustration, outrage, and sadness I am feeling today as I look at the impact that these decisions will have on our community, our friends, and our chosen families.
Today, the Trump-Pence administration launched a full-scale attack on our community when they announced, via a Tweet, that the United States would no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military.

Thousands of transgender people have served with honor and distinction in our military. They have risked their lives around the world to ensure our safety.
CAP and Prism Health condemn this announcement and we call upon the administration to reverse this repulsive and life-endangering action that not only undermines military readiness, but weakens our country and makes us less safe. We stand strong with our transgender service members and their families affected by this ban.
Today’s announcement comes as the latest attempt of the Trump-Pence administration to undo years of progress for the LGBTQ+ community and on the heels of another step backwards in our battle to preserve the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans.

We are deeply concerned by the Senate’s continuing efforts to take away life-sustaining health care coverage and protections from millions of people who desperately need them. All of the iterations of this legislation threaten the health and well-being of people living with and affected by HIV. In a time when we should be working to end this epidemic, the administration’s actions are threatening to undo the work of decades of struggle.

Yesterday what passed was a Motion to Proceed on the healthcare vote. It was not a bill, but a motion for debate. This means there is still time to sway votes. This fight is not over.
These horrible attacks on what we hold most dear are meant to overwhelm us and to break us down. Instead they will focus us and strengthen the resolve of our resistance. Our voices must be heard across the country. We will not accept discrimination in our Military, or anywhere in our Country. We will not accept dropping health coverage from millions of Americans. We will keep fighting every day. CallEmailTweetShare. Together we can fight this; we can’t let up, because we will not move back.
Yours in solidarity,
Tyler TerMeer  |  Executive Director
Cascade AIDS Project | Prism Health

Remember Them With Action: Pulse Nightclub

A year ago today, the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando shook the LGBTQ+ community to its core and left us devastated, angry, and bewildered.  Each of us was affected by this tragic action in our own way.  Most of us read or watched the news of the horrifying events and thought about how it related to our lives.  Others, like our own William McKell, a Bilingual HIV Prevention Specialist at CAP, were more personally affected by the tragedy:

Where Pulse Nightclub was always a lively, enjoyable time for me, Latin Nights were especially so. I distinctly remember the first time I went to Latin Nights at Pulse Orlando and saw two men dancing salsa together in a crowd of people to “Lloraras” by Oscar de Leon. Their movements were so coordinated and in sync—to think about it still gives me chills to this day. The friends and memories I made at Pulse as a young college student would eventually help me realize my identities as a Latino and gay man.  To later discover that I had lost a friend and several acquaintances on that tragic night of June 2016 would strike fear into my core sense of self. Although I want to be able to move on, I cannot help but think about this as a brutal attack on both LGBTQ and Latino communities. We must not forget the importance of representing our culture in a way that honors the memories of those people who simply wanted to dance without fear or judgment. I cannot forget the names or faces of the people who lost their lives while dancing to merengue, bachata, and salsa. I am forever grateful to my friend Drew Leinonen for the life that he led by example, and hope to cherish his memory as I work to proudly represent Latinos wherever they might be. No one can stop the Pulse. ~ William

As we come together as a community to celebrate Pride, its important that we never forget our friends, lovers, sisters, and brothers whose lives were lost that terrible night.  I for one believe that the most profound way to honor their loss is through acts of service to our community. Last week, I had the honor of participating in the AIDS LifeCycle as a volunteer co-captain for the medical team supporting 2,200 riders as they traveled 545 miles down the coast of California. I will alway cherish the memory of working to support my community while being surrounded by the most incredibly vibrant, alive, and jubilant people from all walks of life.

I encourage you to find ways to honor those lives lost in Orlando through action in our own community.  CAP is joining a nationwide effort to honor the lives of the 49 victims. The focus of this effort is to take actions that create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ communities. Use the hashtag #HonorThemWithAction to highlight your own actions and to encourage others to act. Both the Q Center and Basic Rights Oregon have a number of events that you participate in including a blood drive and a community discussion on gun safety.

Please take a moment to remember those who lost their lives and then honor them with action, today and every day going forward.

Yours in peace and solidarity,

Tyler TerMeer, Executive Director

Multnomah County Awards CAP $200,000 to Prism Health

Cascade AIDS Project is proud to announce that Multnomah County has awarded $200,000 in operational support to support Prism Health, CAP’s LGBTQ+ focused primary care health center.

“Multnomah County has worked alongside CAP for three decades to serve the LGBTQ community,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “We’ve fought stigma together, we’ve fought for equity together, and we are proud to support this effort to further reduce barriers and increase access to health care.”

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury

The clinic will serve the full spectrum of Portland’s LGBTQ+ community, from patients with private and employee sponsored health insurance to Medicaid and Medicare clients. CAP will likewise prioritize inclusivity and outreach to communities of color and the transgender population to ensure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community have access to affirming and effective health care.

“Through Prism Health, CAP can build on its 30-year history of providing culturally sensitive services and expand our mission to include the health and wellness of the greater LGBTQ+ community,” said CAP Executive Director Tyler TerMeer. “We appreciate the generous support from Multnomah County as we open Prism Health’s doors in 2017”. Over the years, we have worked closely with the County on various initiatives and are thrilled to tackle this new initiative aimed at bringing health equity to LGBTQ+ individuals”.

Press Release: Collins Foundation Awards $130,000 To Support Prism Health

Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) has been awarded $130,000 from the Collins Foundation to support LGBTQ+ Primary Care Health Center, Prism Health.

“We are honored that the Collins Foundation has made this generous investment in Prism Health.” Said CAP’s Executive Director, Tyler TerMeer. “This is a clear commitment by Collins to health equity in the LGBTQ+ community, and the health and well-being of Oregonians overall.  Through Prism Health, we will remove barriers, improve access, and most importantly provide quality health care for all LGBTQ+ patients across the Portland metropolitan area.” 

Prism Health will open April 2017. It is conveniently located at 2236 SE Belmont Street in Portland, Oregon, and will offer a safe, affirming, and non-judgmental space where all members of the LGBTQ+ community can obtain the compassionate and culturally effective health care they need and deserve. In addition to comprehensive primary care, Prism Health will offer specialized services for the transgender community, HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, mental health counseling, and integrated pharmacy services.

The Collins Foundation invests in local nonprofit organizations, both rural and urban, that are dedicated to improving quality of life and well-being for the people in their communities. Collins is committed to the pursuit of equity, both in how resources are allocated across Oregon’s diverse communities and how their internal structures are shaped. Their vision is for the state of Oregon to be a place where all people have access to high quality, culturally responsible services in sectors such as health, social services, education, housing, and employment.

About Cascade AIDS Project

Cascade AIDS Project is the oldest and largest AIDS Service Organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. CAP’s mission is support and empower all people with or affected by HIV, reduce stigma, and provide the LGBTQ+ community with compassionate healthcare.

CAP Reaffirms Commitment To Equity By Creating New Equity Outreach Coordinator Position

CAP is proud to announce that it has created a new position of Equity Outreach Coordinator to address barriers faced by refugees, people of color, people living in rural areas, and others in obtaining the housing resources available for people living with HIV. In addition to direct outreach to high barrier communities, this position will also help inform CAP’s efforts to design programs for improved equity outcomes across the community. The Equity Outreach Coordinator position will report directly to CAP’s Director of Housing & Support Services.

Tyler TerMeer, Executive Director

“This important new position will work to address the very real disparities faced by some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Executive Director Tyler TerMeer, “The data we have collect over the past year supports our understanding of the barriers confronting people of color attempting to access housing and other services which often result in longer wait times and lower program participation. There are a lot of factors contributing to this inequity, including higher rates of criminal conviction and eviction history that makes it harder for people in communities of color to access housing. All of which means that CAP needs to work hard to overcome these barriers and achieve parity with white clients.”

“We know that HIV-related stigma is so high in some communities that significant numbers of people who know they are positive are going without treatment and services” said Angie Harbin, CAP’s Director of Housing & Support Services, “We also know that a lot of people, for a variety of reasons, face obstacles to accessing CAP’s services through our existing processes. And, finally, our numbers tell us that we need to be doing more to address the disparities in outcomes among certain groups of people. This position is intended to address these issues.”

The position will be funded with dollars from CAP’s federal Ryan White Housing contract that is anticipated to last a minimum of 5 years.

Download the full press release here: Equity Coordinator Press Release

March 20th Marks National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Unfortunately, new HIV infection rates having been increasing in recent years among American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Yet, rates have been decreasing during this time-period for white communities.  Our Native populations are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic – a fact that is rarely highlighted even by HIV/AIDS-focused organizations. Part of the problem is the “other” designation on medical and epidemiological intake forms…

“Other” is oft the catchall phrase used to identify American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.  The generic label disassociates the stories, struggles, and resilience of these communities.  Behind the “other” are people, families, and rich culture and traditions.  American Indian and Alaska Native communities deserve the right, just like every other community, to be named.

Today on National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we urge everyone to remove the “other” label intake forms, reports, and all other means of demographic grouping. Those of Native populations, we welcome your distinct contextualized voice on the effect of HIV/AIDS in your life. To all others, reach out to your Native friends, neighbors, and colleagues with compassion and empathy – or listen to Native HIV stories and PSAs. HIV/AIDS is an enemy all individuals can rally against.

FamilyCare Awards CAP $80,000 To Support Prism Health

CAP has been awarded $80,000 from FamilyCare Health to support the opening of Prism Health, an LGBTQ+ Primary Care Health Center.

“FamilyCare Health has been a long-term partner of CAP, and we are delighted that they have made such a significant statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community by investing in Prism Health,” said CAP’s Executive Director, Tyler TerMeer. “This $80,000 investment allows CAP to complete the health center renovations and open in spring of 2017.”

“FamilyCare Health is proud to support the new Prism Health center, which will increase access and quality of care for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Jeff Heatherington, FamilyCare Health’s President and CEO. “Cascade AIDS project has an incredible track record of serving this community and the new center is certain to be an invaluable asset to the tri-county area.”

Read the full press release here: FamilyCare Grant Press Release

This has never been about bathrooms.

This has never been about bathrooms. It wasn’t about drinking fountains, either. It’s about keeping Trans people out of public spaces. Trans people have existed since the beginning of time. We have been using public accommodations alongside Cisgender people for as long as our society has been developed. There is no known incidence of a Trans person assaulting someone in a bathroom. This is not a safety issue for cisgender women in bathrooms. That is a mirage.

This is really about shame. Our community’s continued fight to move out of the dark, and society’s pressure to keep us shadowed. Our punishment for the audacity we are currently exhibiting is increased scrutiny. The reaction to our demands to be visible in public has been a multitude of legislative attempts to bar us access from accommodations. If we can be kept from being in public spaces, we will be kept tightly wound by our shame.

The insidious nature of shame is that when bestowed upon us from the outside world it infiltrates our being. It changes the way we see ourselves. We begin to see ourselves as others see us. We become our own oppressors. Over time, shame takes happy, healthy and joyful Trans youth, and makes them loathe themselves.

What we learned from Injustice at Every Turn, a large volume study of Trans people published by The Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is that Trans youth are at extreme risk in schools. The study concluded that those who expressed a trans identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%). Harassment so severe, that 1/6th of those students in America chose to drop out, rather than stay in school. Similar data figures came from the U.S. Transgender Survey in 2015. These are all experiences that teach us shame.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moments where events change the course of our lives. I grew up in Eastern Oregon, and hit public school in the early 1990’s. I began being bullied in 1st grade. I learned, as we do often do, to fight back, as teachers seemed to be oblivious. I was lucky to be taken out of public school in 2nd grade, and did not return until high school— a detail that likely allowed me to survive. My first year back in public school was much worse than my days in 1st grade. I was clearly different by this time. I was much closer to being the me that I am now. Questions became accusation, and accusation became physical assault. I lasted a year, and dropped out.

Looking backward, I can say with certainty that leaving high school was one of the defining moments that changed the course of the rest of my life. I started the process to medically transition not long after. The early 2000’s were dark times for Trans folks in many ways. Like most of the Trans women who transitioned at early ages back then, I found myself houseless and engaging in survival sex work by age 17. It took me almost a decade to return to formal education of any kind.

I am currently finishing my Bachelor ’s degree in social science at Portland State University, and I am working as a CareLink Navigator here at CAP. I am smart, capable, engaging and have fire within me to create change – and, I am about to turn 31. Most of my peers finished undergrad 8 years ago, have a master’s degree and are in management positions. I am still in an entry level position; still trying to get caught up to the rest of the world. Unlearning the mirroring we receive when we are young is some of the very hardest work. These social experiences had a stunting effect on my life. An effect great enough that I am still doing work to undo it, a very long time later.

During the time that I was in school, no protections existed in Oregon for Trans people. This was long before the legislation of 2008 that made it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity, and the sweeping guidelines from Oregon’s Department of Education last year. Oregon has taken a stand when it comes to Trans youth and adults in schools and public accommodations. Unfortunately, most states have not and are still forbidding Trans folks from using the correct bathroom. Most Trans youth live in states where they are being sent the messages that I was. That there is something wrong with us, and we need to make ourselves scarce.

These experiences have consequences for the rest of our lives. My personal progress has cost a great deal, financially, physically and emotionally. While we cannot forcibly change the way people view us, we can change laws, add protections, and continue the momentum into light. My desire is that even youth in rural, southern places who are Trans, will eventually have the ability to complete school, and have the same access their cisgender contemporaries do.

For that to happen, all of us need to have investment into this crisis. Trans people need cisgender people to care that we are being barred access to education and accommodations as much we do. This is about you fighting with us to bring back regulations protecting Trans people under Title IX. This is about you fighting with us to change people’s perceptions of Trans people. It’s about hiring us to work in your agencies and companies, inviting us to your gatherings and to be part of your communities. It’s about teaching your children to accept and stand up for their Trans classmates.

We are not here to hurt you, and we never have been. We just need to pee, attend school in a safe environment, and go about our lives.  As we approach another supreme court ruling on Trans youth in schools, I encourage you to google Gavin Grimm, and become aware of the ebb and flow of federal regulations around this issue. Talk to your children. Talk to your family members in other states. We need you.

#standwithgavin

Devon Davis
Cascade AIDS Project 
CareLink Navigator

Prism Health Logo Unveiled!

CAP is thrilled to unveil the new logo for Prism Health, our LGBTQ+ primary care center opening in Spring of 2017!

Located at 2236 SE Belmont Street in Portland, Prism Health will offer a safe, affirming, and non-judgmental space where all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community can obtain the compassionate and culturally effective health care they need and deserve.

In addition to comprehensive primary care, it is anticipated that the center will offer specialized services for the transgender community, HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing, mental health care, and specialty pharmacy services. With this health center, CAP is committed to removing barriers, improving access, and most importantly providing quality health care for all LGBTQ+ patients in the Portland metro region.

Patients do not have to be LGBTQ+ to receive care, but services will focus on addressing the sensitive issues of sexual minorities and their families and friends.

To sign up for more information about Prism Health visit: www.prismhealth.org

A Message of Love to Our Community

Dear CAP Family,
Understanding and acceptance of our identity is a lifelong journey. Over the course of my journey with the virus, I have met some of the most life-changing and inspiring individuals, many of whom don’t even realize the impact they are having on those around them.
My work in HIV has taken my life to new heights and it is the energy and passion that I draw from the people I have met along this path that keeps me going each and every day. Sadly, for as far as we have come in this epidemic, I have lost countless friends and clients … many of whom I consider my kids … my family.
Today, I’m remembering the life and energy of one of my kids – Geneva. She would have been 30 years old this week. It’s hard to understand her loss from this world, but what I do know is that those of us who had the honor of knowing her are forever better for it!

I could tell you so many amazing stories about Geneva, each of which would bring the biggest smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Born with HIV, she was a young woman of small stature with a thick Brooklyn accent who lived 27 years with her disease and never for a minute stopped fighting. I loved how she could light up any room with her smile and laughter, welcomed people into her life with an open heart and wouldn’t pause to question systems when they were unjust or inequitable. I think what I admired the most about Geneva, is that even on her hardest days she found the strength to teach us all what it truly means to be a compassionate and loving advocate.

I often think about what Geneva would be saying right now in our current political environment. Today, I imagine that my phone would ring and as I answered from thousands of miles away, I’d hear her immediately launch into one of her infamous speeches. It would have started with some comment about how she just cannot grasp, how we’ve arrived in a time and place where we have people in positions of power that on one hand have a history of being anti-LGBTQ+, but on the other hand are celebrating a holiday whose mascot is a man with fairy wings in small tight underwear shooting arrows of love.

I’d laugh until tears rolled down my face, then as always she’d say something so profound and wise beyond her years. Today, it would be a reminder to send out a message of love to our community.

Love for those we have lost, love for those living with and affected by HIV, and for all marginalized communities whose rights, access to healthcare, safety, and ability to make choices for their own bodies are being challenged by decisions to be made over the years to come.

I know that we are entering a time of uncertainty, that we all have many unanswered questions, and that sitting in a place of unknown vulnerability can be scary and overwhelming. I also know that CAP and Prism Health will be here to provide support and love for all of those communities in the years ahead.
Love always,