|To heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear.|
-- Stephen Levine
Kathryn Cartladge, a Presbyterian minister who was also a former staff member of AID Atlanta, began to observe that individuals within the HIV community were accessing medical care and support groups, but were still missing a piece and were feeling very isolated. The spiritual needs of the HIV community were not being met. She also observed that the faith community was slow to responding to this need. In 1989, Cartladge decided to address this concern and formed the Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network (AIAN).
AIAN is designed to focus on the spiritual and emotional needs of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, it provides opportunities for the faith community to become involved and respond to these needs. AIAN provides four programs that provide a safe place for individuals to get their spiritual needs met: Common Ground, Faithful Care, Pastoral Care and Educational Programs.
Common Ground first opened its door in 1990. It developed as a part of the agency in order to provide a place where individuals can "move from isolation to community," stated Jeff Peterson-Davis, Executive Director. Common Ground is Atlanta's only five-day-a-week support program for individuals living with HIV. Meditation that goes into living with HIV is a part of each day. Lunch is provided by congregations, community groups and restaurants. Daily participants look forward to a different afternoon activity that can include art therapy, support group, Reiki, or a day trip to the bowling alley. Common Ground also provides opportunities for community service organizations to set up stations where they can speak about treatment information and access to health care.
Faithful Care is not as visible as Common Ground. Care Teams are made up of volunteers that provide non-judgmental practical support for people who are homebound with HIV/AIDS. Faithful Care differs from a buddy program by providing practical support.
Faithful Care Team members are individuals from the community who may attend church together, work together or even participate at the same yoga studio. A typical team is made up of six to eight volunteers who make the commitment to each other as a team and to the person living with HIV/AIDS as a Care Receiver. Faithful Care finds that each team provides support to one another and therefore better support for the Care Receiver.
Often individuals feel the call to participate in this ministry, but they are not affiliated with any particular congregation or denomination. These individuals are encouraged and welcomed to join an existing team or newly forming care teams. Anyone who is willing to be an active participant in the care of someone who is homebound with HIV/AIDS is welcomed.
Faithful Care Teams receive training that covers two levels. These trainings occur at least once per quarter.
Level one covers caring for the caregiver:
Level two is taking care of the Care Receiver:
These levels are required to become a Faithful Care Team member, unless otherwise arranged by the Faithful Care Program Director.
The Care Team provides respite care for the Care Receiver. Initially, care was provided for individuals who were in their end stages of living with AIDS. Today, the epidemic has changed and many individuals are living much longer with HIV. A Care Receiver may only need care for a short period of time while they are recovering from an illness, surgery or severe side effect. After the initial recovery period, the Care Team will remain in contact with their Care Receiver so that if any additional support is needed in the future, care will be available.
Pastoral Care is a network of interfaith clergy volunteers. They are available to provide pastoral care when needed. These needs may include hospital visits, administrating the sacrament (communion), officiating at funeral services and Pastoral Care and Counseling. These volunteer clergy are from a variety of different religions.
The Educational Programs are geared to provide awareness, prevention and motivation to become involved with AIAN and the HIV community. Primarily education is provided within the faith community. In addition, they offer their services to any group that requests their assistance with education.
AIAN has many volunteer opportunities within Common Ground and Faithful Care, and for presenters and special project volunteers. If you would like to learn more about AIAN's four program you can call Common Ground at 404-874-6425, or AIAN at 404-874-8686. You may also come by a visit their home at 1053 Juniper Street, NE; Atlanta, Georgia 30309. If you decide to stop by, do not be surprised if someone reaches out with a big hug to welcome you.
For those who are looking for programs like AIAN outside of the state of Georgia you can call AIAN for other locations or look for Regional AIDS Interfaith Networks in your own area. Programs extend from Tampa, Florida to Seattle, Washington.
In the next issue of Survival News, part two of this article will go more into a typical day at Common Ground.