"Do One Thing" is a TakePart series highlighting awesome organizations that are making big impacts. We call it "Do One Thing" because our aim is to give you access to the basic tools that will get you involved in advancing the mission and making this world a better place.
By 1987, a need had arisen in the U.S. to care for those whose lives had been imperiled by a new disease known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Michael Weinstein and a small group of activists lobbied for the resources to "fight for the living and care for the dying." This was the start of the AIDS Hospice Foundation.
As treatment improved and anti-retroviral medicines made it possible for HIV-positive individuals to stall the virus and live productive lives, the AIDS Hospice Foundation shifted its mission and became the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
With its on-the-ground medical knowledge and advocacy, AHF has been invited to address the unique needs of communities and countries around the world. Today, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation brings care to more than 156,000 individuals in 26 countries.
What the AIDS Healthcare Foundation does:
At its core, AHF provides "High quality, cost effective, compassionate care," says Lori Yeghiayan, AHF's Associate Director of Communications.
It provides medical clinics that treat HIV/AIDS patients, regardless of the individual's ability to pay. It runs free testing centers that allow people to learn their status and, if needed, seek treatment. (The earlier individuals learn their status, the better to take care of themselves and prevent the spread of the virus.)
In addition, AHF lobbies Washington, D.C., for funding in the fight against AIDS. As the understanding of HIV/AIDS has changed over the past decades, the ways in which the epidemic is addressed must also change—funding and programs must be kept current and effective.
What sets the AIDS Healthcare Foundation apart:
AHF is unique in its commitment to both medical care and to advocacy. "Access to lifesaving AIDS treatment is one of our top priorities. So, we may not be able to treat the 33 million people in the world who are estimated to be infected with HIV, but we can open up the access through our advocacy efforts," Yeghiayan says.
In its global programs, AHF informs individuals of their HIV status, and links them with medical care resources. Awareness advocacy and medical care go hand in hand to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus.
Why you should care about the estimated 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS:
Without access to treatment, HIV/AIDS breaks apart families and communities, and can destabilize the developing world. When parents die from the disease, their children can be left orphaned, or raised by a distant relative. The effects ripple through communities and regions, perpetuating poverty and minimizing educational opportunities for children.
Yeghiayan adds, "Fortunately we have the tools right now to control AIDS because of the anti-retroviral treatment. So increasing access to that will mean communities can remain intact, families can remain intact. [...] We do a lot of advocacy around drug prices, because to lower prices is to increase access."
One thing you can do:
If you live in California, Florida, or Washington, D.C., you can take your business to AIDS Healthcare Foundation's social enterprises: Out of the Closet Thrift Stores and the AHF Pharmacy. At both these locations, 96 cents of every dollar goes directly to AHF programs, including medical care, testing, advocacy and prevention.
If you happen to live elsewhere, join the AIDS Healthcare Foundation's online network—advocacy can directly influence change through government policy and funding. As Yeghiayan points out, "You may not be on the ground there treating a patient, but the kind of access it opens up is incalculable."
Quick Study: HIV/AIDS