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Dame Elizabeth Taylor Donates CareVan to NO/AIDS

Mobile Medical Unit Addresses New Orleans' HIV/AIDS Healthcare Outreach Concern

July 11, 2006

New Orleans -- Prior to Hurricane Katrina, more than 7,400 individuals with HIV were living in metro New Orleans. With a changed demographic landscape, the number today is undetermined: What is certain is that there is a great need for care.

NO/AIDS Task Force is bringing healthcare services into the community with its 37-foot "CareVan," donated by Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Macy's department stores to help provide vital care to the HIV/AIDS community in the Gulf Coast following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. NO/AIDS Task Force today was presented a check for $40,000 from Elizabeth Taylor and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

The storms that affected so much of the New Orleans area also impacted the health services organizations serving the HIV/AIDS population, with several of the HIV/AIDS healthcare providers no longer operating months after the storm. In addition to a fractured healthcare system, the city's transportation service also is fragmented, making it more difficult for clients to get to the services that are available.

Noel Twilbeck, executive director of NO/AIDS Task Force, said the donation goes a long way toward providing the necessary care and testing to the community. The 37-foot CareVan features two examination tables, an X-ray machine and flat screen TVs.

"This is a phenomenal gift that Elizabeth Taylor wanted to make available to people with HIV/AIDS. We're incredibly grateful that she has reached out with such a valuable piece of equipment that truly fills a need in New Orleans," Twilbeck said. "Her donation has opened other doors and opportunities for our organization to provide better healthcare to the New Orleans community."

The donation came about when Martin Delaney, founder of national HIV/AIDS research and advocacy organization Project Inform, recommended NO/AIDS as the recipient when the Academy-award winning actress asked him what she could do to help the local AIDS community in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Delaney has worked with NO/AIDS on projects in the past and also has a relationship with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. He immediately saw a good fit and called Twilbeck, who agreed that people with AIDS in New Orleans would surely benefit from the donation.

"I wish I could say this was my idea, but it was Elizabeth Taylor herself who realized that many people with HIV were severely displaced by the hurricane," Delaney said. "When she learned that the clinics that treat HIV were closed down, many permanently, she saw the need for a mobile medical facility that could bring care and treatment directly to the people in need."

Project Inform was assigned the role of overseeing the donation of the CareVan and finding local partners to run the service. "Elizabeth Taylor has been a great leader in the fight against AIDS. We are all honored by the opportunity to work with her on this project," Delaney said.

Delaney, who is in New Orleans for the official launch of the CareVan this week, also is presenting "The Coming of the New Paradigm in HIV treatment -- New Drugs, New Strategies, New Outcomes," a discussion with HIV clients and healthcare providers regarding the latest information on new classes of drugs and other advancements for the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Donates Additional Services, Staff

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation's largest AIDS organization, which operates free treatment clinics in the United States, Africa, Asia and Latin America/Caribbean, will provide additional resources, clinical expertise and equipment, as well as medical personnel to staff the mobile clinic. Their donation will guarantee staffing and resources for the CareVan for one year in addition to allowing for a regular service schedule.

"The ability to increase usage of the mobile medical unit by bringing it out into the neighborhoods and communities will help get people into primary care, and hopefully keep them in primary care to help address their medical needs related to HIV disease," Twilbeck said. "The donation by AIDS Healthcare Foundation will bring a new era in the use of the CareVan."

Representatives from AIDS Healthcare Foundation recently visited New Orleans and recognized the need to support the community. "We are honored to help people living with HIV/AIDS struggling to regain a sense of normalcy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Our commitment to providing cutting-edge medicine wherever the need is greatest brought us here, and we look forward to collaborating with NO/AIDS Task Force to ensure that medical services reach those who might not otherwise be able to access care."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation also will host a fundraiser, "AIDS Care After Katrina," on July 20 in Los Angeles to raise funds supporting NO/AIDS Task Force and the CareVan efforts.

NO/AIDS Task Force is committed to providing low-cost, high-quality services like Food for Friends, primary care, case management, HIV education and prevention, mental health, confidential and anonymous HIV testing and much more to anyone infected or affected by HIV and AIDS. NO/AIDS has provided services to HIV-affected individuals for more than 22 years and will continue as long as the need persists.

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This article was provided by NO/AIDS Task Force.