February 14, 2012
Sixty-one year-old North Portland resident Jacki Gethner is on a tireless crusade to provide HIV/AIDS education and information to older women. While receiving a Bank of America (BOA) Neighborhood Hero award last November, she used her acceptance speech to talk about safe sex, and she taught the audience how to put on a condom.
In 2009, Gethner received a national Kaiser Permanente Diversity award; she used the proceeds to found "Women of a Certain Age" (WCA) a program dedicated to educating women over 50 about HIV risks and prevention. In the 15 months since the program launched, Gethner has conducted almost 50 presentations, focusing her efforts on senior center managers, domestic violence workers, probation and parole officers, and geriatric social workers. She estimates she has reached nearly 1,000 local women.
"This project has been a huge challenge because there is so much shame around this issue," Gethner said. "There are a lot of women over 50 who are still looking for Mr. Right, but they don't think enough of themselves to get up out of bed and get a condom."
Gethner wants to establish WCA in six areas of the state: Portland, Corvalis, Grants Pass, Bend, Pendleton, and on the coast. The program's peer educators are central to that effort; their job is not to be experts, but to be able to communicate basic HIV/AIDS information and accompany women who want to get screened, she said. Each program will partner with a local medical or social service provider.
Shelley Bailey, a pharmacy manager who nominated Gethner for the BOA award, said Gethner is "very mindful of the needs of the community, and cultivates relationships among women. She's an individual who could do a lot of good for the community."
For more information, visit www.jackigethner.com.