I recently had the pleasure of participating in the third evaluation convening meeting for AIDS United access to care grantees in Baltimore, and invariably colleagues asked me upon my return how the meeting went and what did I learn from the meeting. After this last meeting I had an epiphany for how I should describe these convening meetings in the future- inspirational fellowship. Now I am the last person to describe things with religious language, and anyone who knows me can testify to that! But in many regards these meetings are just like going to church or bible study for me. It is a group of like-minded people sharing their thoughts, ideas, creativity and passions in something we are all very committed to: getting and keeping people with HIV in care.
Sometimes it seems like I become so focused on our access to care projects here in Chicago, the challenges of identifying people lost to care, addressing issues of HIV stigma and homophobia, that it seems we can never accomplish all that needs to be done and our efforts are just a drop in the bucket. Then I go to these convening meetings and I am reminded how many brothers and sisters in ending HIV there are across the country. I see how other projects have evolved that are just like ours across the country. For example, our Connect2Care project has begun to experience challenges in reaching out and engaging medical providers to partner in re-engaging people into care. After this meeting I feel renewed to step up and lead new efforts to engage medical providers and offer them my “fellowship.” I want to really begin to acknowledge that to work together effectively we must recognize that we share the same goals, we want to connect people to care to improve their health, the health of their families, and the health of our communities.
And this work can’t be done alone- it requires our IN-CARE Project peers to laugh, listen, and educate folks on the importance of primary care, it requires our Connect2Care Coordinators to entice and cajole primary care providers to collaborate on linking people who need care to that care.
Our access to care work requires relationships to be built and maintained. I, and the organization I work for have always valued relationship building, both with our clients and our partners. AU’s access to care grants have been in instrumental in giving us the resources to focus on relationships to get people into care. Now more than ever it is the key in helping us move closer towards a generation where HIV is managed and controlled, and no more new infections occur.
AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is a grantee of AIDS United’s Access to Care Initiative.