It is an exciting time for us here at AIDS Resource. This year we are celebrating our 30th anniversary and thought this would be the perfect time to take a look back to see how the agency has evolved.
In 1988, AIDS moved to the forefront of the nation’s attention. Then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop sent every household in the United States a booklet about HIV/AIDS – a move that was highly controversial at the time.
During that same year, the Presidential Commission on AIDS was formed and the World Health Organization first declared December 1 as World AIDS Day.
That same year, far away from the national attention, a small group of people who were concerned about the plight of those dying from AIDS got together to found AIDS Resource.
With the original goal of helping people die with dignity, we relied on volunteers to provide comfort to the critically ill. At that time, no one could have anticipated the medical breakthroughs that would change the landscape of HIV, turning a once-deadly disease into a manageable health condition. And, while the commitment to the original goal of providing dignity to those living with HIV and AIDS has never wavered, the mission has expanded dramatically to meet the changing needs to those living with HIV and AIDS.
Over the past 30 years, we have expanded to serve 10 counties, providing a wide spectrum of services for those living with HIV and AIDS, as well as those at risk for contracting HIV. In addition to case management, we provide financial assistance for housing, utilities, medication, insurance, medical and dental care, transportation, counseling, food, nutritional supplements, medical adherence programs, mental health counseling and programs to help people stop smoking.
We also include HIV and STI counseling and testing centers as part of our program. Within the last year, AIDS Resource has expanded its offerings to include a free Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) clinic in Williamsport.
30 years is a long time. When we started this agency we never realized the impact we would have. We set out to accomplish a mission.
AIDS Resource remains committed to advocating for those whose lives have been affected by discrimination. We spearheaded a campaign to create a Williamsport personal care home that admits people living with HIV after a person was denied housing and also helped win a judgment against a dentist who refused to treat a person living with HIV.
These unique efforts gained national attention when AIDS Resource was one of only six agencies from across the nation featured in the magazine, Positively Aware, in an article on HIV in rural America.
We continue to face challenges in rural Pennsylvania which are not faced by our counterparts in non-rural areas. Our list of challenges include:
- Criminalization of some risk behaviors associated with HIV
- Conservative cultural and societal attitudes
- Lack of an organized LGBTQ support system, services, and businesses in nearly all the counties served
- Negative attitudes towards providing a comprehensive “safety net” for marginalized populations
- Fear of disclosure by “small town grapevines”
- Rejection by families
- Misinformation about needle exchange programs
As we remain focused on our mission, we will slowly overcome these challenges. We will all continue to work together with one purpose (stopping the spread of HIV). Together we will exhibit a sense of commitment, belonging, community support and collaboration as we continue to push forward in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Currently we serve the following counties (the last 4 of which we just added this year!):
- Lycoming County
- Snyder County
- Union County
- Clinton County
- Centre County
- Potter County
- Elk County
- Cameron County
- Clearfield County
- McKean County
While most discussions about healthcare issues involve doom and gloom, we are here to celebrate 30 years of hard work! We have made major progress in the community and are committed to continuing to lead the fight against HIV and expanding our efforts.