Introductions To AIDS Agencies
There are 93,247 AIDS organizations in the United States. Where is the average HIV positive person or PWA supposed to turn for help and information?
My first experience with "Being Alive" was through the Newsletter. I discovered the wide range and depth of information . I wrote a couple of articles which, to my great delight, were published. As a result, I was invited to attend one of the early meetings of the women's newsletter-and that's how I got involved. I became a member and a volunteer with the organization.
The membership is comprised exclusively of people who actually have the virus. Associate members are volunteers who are immediately affected by the AIDS pandemic, that is, they have a lover, family member, or close friend who is living with HIV or has died from AIDS. We are a multi-cultural group ranging in class from the very privileged and educated to the unfortunate and homeless. The common bond that enables us to work together is that we are all living with AIDS.
Being Alive was founded in 1984 by a group of gay men who had AIDS, for emotional support and empowerment. It was the first organization of people with AIDS helping people with AIDS.
Support at Being Alive is available in a variety of ways. From 11 am to 6 pm Monday though Friday and 12 noon to 4 pm on Saturdays there are volunteers answering the phones. They can also be reached for immediate questions and concerns, or be called on a regular basis for peer counseling. This happens both on a phone-in and walk-in basis. Currently, Being Alive is making a serious effort to get women involved in the office as peer counselors. It's important because more and more women are beginning to call the office. They call with a variety of concerns: "I'm 6 months pregnant and I just found out I'm HIV positive", or "My boyfriend has AIDS, I tested positive last week", "I have a vaginal discharge that won't go away, does that mean I have HIV?". When they call, they want to talk to another woman. The volunteers are always very compassionate, but, it's hard for the woman on the other end of the phone to talk about her pregnancy or her vaginal discharge to a man. If a woman calls while neither of the two HIV positive women volunteers are in, she's not really getting the full benefit of "peer" counseling. The ideal situation would be to have an HIV+ woman on every shift during office hours. The morning shift is from 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and the afternoon shift is from 2:30 pm to 6:00 pm. If you are a woman with AIDS or HIV and if you are isolating, perhaps you could benefit from volunteering your time to help others like yourself.
The original Being Alive Newsletter started in 1984. The women's newsletter grew out of the Women's Issues section of that newsletter.
The newest regular event at Being Alive is the Women's Socials for HIV positive women, women with AIDS, and their female friends. These are held on the first Sunday of every month from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm at the Being Alive office in Los Angeles. It's an excellent, safe opportunity for women to meet each other. Plus, this event is totally catered to women. We offer transportation. Children are welcome. We provide food and drinks. We want to make it easy for women to attend.
The Speaker's Bureau is a group of 30 to 40 people who go out and speak wherever, and for whoever requests them. It's a pretty tight cadre of people. They meet regularly. And they have a lot of training so that they are able to answer questions on anything about AIDS. The Speakers Bureau welcomes the participation of women.
Every month Being Alive sponsors the Medical Update, presented by Dr. Mark Katz. It's held the 4th Monday of every month, 7:00 pm at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. Dr. Katz always starts with the most current general medical information. Then he has a guest who focuses on a particular subject, such as skin problems, gynecological symptoms, treatments, mental health, and so forth.
Being Alive maintains a library which is staffed by a team of volunteers. They organize the information which comes into the office, in addition to soliciting information. The library has books, newsletters, pamphlets, literature, video tapes, and current information on clinical trials. They also are connected to the Computer AIDS Network, commonly known as CANE. This is a computer based system containing archives of information on all aspects of the pandemic. If people can't locate the information they need in the Library, they can request a search on CANE.
One of Being Alive's original functions was advocacy for AIDS patients. It remains an important part of the organization to this day. Currently, Being Alive maintains an advocacy committee that monitors public policies, and initiates projects which provide assistance and support.
Finding a mate, or even a date, when you're HIV positive is at best difficult, at worst impossible. Connect was created to help HIV+ people do exactly that-connect. It is another way for people with HIV to meet each other outside of a support group setting.
Women are the fastest growing segment of the population who are being infected. Being Alive sees the needs of women and is trying to help us and encourage us to help ourselves. The first women's programs, the social and the newsletter, are a huge success.
Being Alive is located at 3626 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90026. Office hours are 11am-6 pm-Monday through Friday, and Noon to 4 pm on Saturday. The phone number is (213)667-3262.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.