World AIDS Day: A Time of Hope & Remembrance

Tyler TerMeer
Executive Director

World AIDS Day is upon us again.  For me, World AIDS Day has always been a time of reflection and remembrance. A time for me to remember those individuals lost along this journey and to reflect on the ways in which HIV has changed the course of my life.

However, this World AIDS Day feels different. This year has felt a bit like we have been under siege.  We have been bombarded with efforts to deprive people of healthcare and attacks on programs that people living with HIV have come to depend. We have felt the tide of racism, xenophobia and misogyny rising. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the negativity and fear.

That’s why on this World AIDS Day I am focusing on the ways in which my own life has been enriched. For nearly 14 years I have been living with HIV. As a 34-year-old, gay, HIV positive man of color, I have faced my share of stigma and fear. But I’ve also come to understand the tremendous courage, strength, and compassion that many people have shown in the face of this disease. Personally, becoming positive was a transformation for which I will always be profoundly grateful as it gave me a perspective that was bigger than myself. It catapulted me from a career in the arts to working in HIV policy and activism and it gave me the opportunity to work with and for people most impacted by the epidemic. 

So, this morning, I am thinking of how we can build on our progress and reimagine a new path forward to end the epidemic. We have traveled a long way from the dark beginnings of this disease and have come so far in the fight. The rate of new infections is decreasing and we are diagnosing people earlier. We have a pill, commonly known as PrEP, that when taken consistently can help prevent HIV infection.  Once diagnosed and connected to care, people living with HIV can lead long and vibrant lives. And science now confirms that individuals living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load are no longer able to transmit the virus to others.

In short, there is much to be joyful about even as we grapple with the challenges of our time. As Dr. Maya Angelou famously said “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

As we celebrate and remember on this World AIDS Day, we must take her words to heart. We will encounter these challenges, learn how to rise from them, and come out of this stronger together.

Sincerely, Tyler

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

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

CAP Announces New Mission & Name For LGBTQ+ Health Center

Today, December 1st, marks the 29th anniversary of World AIDS Day – a time for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to show their support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have lost their lives in the epidemic. In commemoration of World AIDS Day, CAP announced that it has adopted a new mission statement to enable the agency to better serve its existing clients and expand services to provide direct medical services to the broader LGBTQ+ community through the creation of a new LGBTQ+ Primary Care Center slated to open in early 2017.

CAP’s new mission:

We support and empower all people with or affected by HIV, reduce stigma, and provide the LGBTQ+ community with compassionate healthcare

“Our new mission statement reflects both our 32-year history of fighting the HIV epidemic as well as our move to providing culturally relevant health care to the broader LGBTQ+ community through our new health center,” said CAP Executive Director Tyler TerMeer. “I am also thrilled to announce the name of the health center: Prism Health. The name is a nod to the rich history of the LGBTQ+ liberation movement and an evocation of the power of science to be used in the service of the community.”prism

“CAP will always be here to work with and support people affected by HIV, but it was also time to look towards the future—which is providing culturally affirming health care to the LGBTQ community,” said CAP Board Chair, Robert Goman. “With a growing LGBTQ population, we need to take action now to ensure that their health needs are met.”

Prism Health, a primary care health center, an integral part of CAP’s expanding mission to serve the broader LGBTQ+ community and will help remove barriers and improve access to health care for all LGBTQ+ individuals. More information can be found at www.cascadeaids.org.

Cascade AIDS Project Awarded $25,000 From Yahoo!

PORTLAND, OR (November 18, 2015) – For the second year in a row, Cascade AIDS Project (CAP) has been awarded significant support from the Yahoo Employee Foundation. This year’s grant $25,000 supports two important programs, Positive Force Northwest and Camp KC, which aim to help families living with HIV replace isolation with self-efficacy, confidence, and promote wellbeing through community building.

Positive Force Northwest is a quarterly gathering of individuals living with HIV with three areas of focus: community service, advocacy and outreach and educational opportunities. When members of Positive Force gather for community service or to advocate publicly, they wear red tee shirts identifying them as HIV positive. Thus, simply by appearing in public, they encourage other people to see them as normal, valuable, nonthreatening individuals rather than as a disease.

Camp KC gives up to 50 HIV-affected and -infected children from across Oregon the opportunity to enjoy a week camping on the Oregon coast. At Camp KC, children dealing with HIV themselves or in their family can feel “normal” knowing that every other child at camp understands their situation. Camp KC differs from other camps in a few ways. First, the camper-to-staff ratio is about two to one rather than the eight-to-one ratio in an average camp. This ensures that each camper is showered with attention and acceptance. Also, Camp is free for the campers, which is the only way most are able to attend.

“We are extremely gratified that the Yahoo Employee Foundation continues to support CAP in such a significant way” said Tyler TerMeer, CAP’s Executive Director. “Both of the programs work with some of the most vulnerable members of our community and help them achieve empowerment and self-sufficiency through community building.”

About Cascade AIDS Project

Cascade AIDS Project is the oldest and largest AIDS Service Organization in Oregon and Southwest Washington. CAP’s mission is to prevent HIV infections, support and empower people living with or affected by HIV, and eliminate HIV-related stigma and health disparities. www.cascadeaids.org

HIV and the African-American Community by Anthony Rivers, African American Peer Support Specialist

Anthony

If we are going to change the stigma of HIV, we have to stop living it. The African-American community has a history of avoiding or delaying healthcare for various reasons. Some of the concerns go back to the Tuskegee experiments in which hundreds of black men, for 40 years, were intentionally infected with Syphilis to allow the government to study the natural progression of the disease while untreated. Other habits are instilled in black youth inadvertently by our parents who only take us to the doctor in emergency situations. We are conditioned to wait and see due to fears and in many times our socioeconomic status. I fear the same mentality we developed to save us is now killing us.

When dealing with HIV, cancer, and other potentially lethal illnesses, early detection is imperative. Infection rates among the black communities are steadily on the rise because we are becoming infected and infecting others due to our barriers to the health care system. These barriers are part of a stigma in the community that dictates how we obtain health care and what information we share with our health care providers. Our doctors can’t help if we are not forthcoming with our real lives; however, we can’t be forthcoming with our real lives until we have the faith in our doctors that we can speak without judgment and/or shame.

As the greatest affected community, we have the power to begin to eradicate this disease, but it comes at a price. We must be willing to not only engage in preventative health care services but also show our younger generation how to properly access and use medical treatment. We must begin to evolve mentally and understand the dealings of the past are no longer ethically or legally tolerable. We need to educate ourselves on prevention as well as maintenance if we become infected with HIV. By getting tested, using protection, and educating ourselves and our neighbors, we can take a greater responsibility and begin to heal our communities one at a time. We no longer have to die of AIDS when we now have the tools to live productive lives with HIV.