We’re energized, we’re united and we’re committed,” said Stephen Hourahan, executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island, speaking about the upcoming AIDS Walk for Life.
This year, perhaps more than ever, it is important to come together at the walk to show solidarity and strength, he said.
”The happenings in Washington D.C. frighten many of us in the LGBTQ community and beyond, ”he said.” Let’s stand up to ignorance and hatred. One way is a strong showing at the AIDS Walk for Life.”
This year the walk takes place Sunday, April 23 starting and ending on the State House lawn. Registration opens at 10AM, a speaking program begins at noon, and the walk steps off at 12:30PM. Immediately after the walk, there will be a raffle and other fun. The event’s tag line this year is ”Fighting HIV One Step at a Time.”
Individuals, families and their pets are invited to participate in the walk, which will take place rain or shine. “We scheduled it to make it easier for college students to attend, since it’s critical that young people develop a better understanding of HIV/AIDS,” Hourahan said. More details, including information about on-line registration and forming walk teams, are posted at www.aidsprojectri.org.
This year’s chair is Anthony F. DeRose, chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s LGBTQ Caucus and also known as “Rhode Island’s Drag Sweetheart” Jacqueline DiMera. “This is our year, this is our time,” he said. “Sunday, April 23 will be a day of unity and support among all participants as we fight HIV and AIDs, as well as the haters … one step at a time.”
Funds raised benefit AIDS Project Rhode Island; AIDS Care Ocean State is creating walk teams that will raise money for that organization.
Hourahan is serving as a co-chair of the walk, along with AIDS Care Ocean State’s development director George Evans Marley and community volunteer Timothy Rondeau.
“It’s a partnership between these two AIDS service organizations that reflects the partnership in our monthly Drag Bingo event,” said Marley. “We are pleased to work with our friends at AIDS Project Rhode Island and many others from across the state to make this a success.”
“The walk has been a signature local happening for decades and continues to be,” said Rondeau. “One area we want to particularly promote is HIV testing. It’s free, fast and anonymous and is available at AIDS Project Rhode Island, AIDS Care Ocean State and other organizations. If your test finds you are HIV+, medical care is available to prevent you from transitioning to AIDS. You need to also take steps to ensure you don’t spread HIV to others.”
HIV stands for “Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” HIV can lead to AIDS, “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” which greatly weakens the immune system increasing the opportunity for serious infections and cancers. Treatments for AIDS, and to prevent HIV from turning into AIDS, have greatly improved over the years so infected persons can often have normal lifespans with proper care.
Equipped with a range of HIV/AIDS and related forms of assistance, AIDS Project Rhode Island offers an array of services to prevent the spread of HIV, facilitate testing, and provide assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS.
• Mental health counseling for issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, sex addiction and more.
• Free, fast and anonymous HIV testing. Free testing is also available for Hepatitis C and Syphilis. “HIV testing, it should be noted, is through swabbing one’s mouth. No blood is involved in the test,” said Christion Battey, who heads the testing team at AIDS Project Rhode Island.
• Case management to help clients access medical care, food resources and more.
• “HIV 101” trainings to provide basic information to high risk communities.
• Free condoms.
• Financial support for dental care.
• Emergency financial assistances for a variety of needs, including medical costs, rent, heat and other utility expenses.
• Bus passes for medical appointments.
• Nutritional supplements.
• Information about Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention approach where HIV-negative individuals use anti-HIV medications to reduce their risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus. PEP is an HIV prevention strategy where HIV-negative individuals take HIV medications after coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of becoming infected.
• The Afia Center, a drop-in location at the Mathewson Street Church on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, offering hot meals, support groups, a food pantry and more.
• Community testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and Syphilis at colleges and other locations, often in partnership with the 2-1-1 Outreach RV.
More information is available at www.aidsprojectri.org or by calling 401.831.5522. AIDS Project Rhode Island’s office is located at 9 Pleasant Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 02906.
The Work Started in the 1980’s
AIDS Project Rhode Island was founded in the mid-1980s to provide a compassionate, non-judgmental and collaborative response to the needs of people infected, affected and at-risk of HIV/AIDS.
In 2008, the organization expanded its array of services by merging with another AIDS service organization, Family Service of Rhode Island. The unification of two major AIDS service organizations created a broader system of care accessible through one entry point.
Today, AIDS Project Rhode Island, as a division of Family Service of Rhode Island, continues its tradition of excellence while energetically developing new programs and approaches to meet today’s challenges.
Family Service of Rhode Island
Celebrates 125 Years
Family Service of Rhode Island is a non-profit organization providing a wide array of human and educational services to primarily low-income children, adults and families in every Rhode Island community. It was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest local organizations of its type.
This year is the 125th anniversary of the founding of Family Service of Rhode Island. The upcoming AIDS Walk for Life is one of an array of anniversary events.
More information about Family Service of Rhode Island is available at www.familyserviceri.org.