Article by Morgen Buck
HIV and AIDS is a silent predator that is developing around us daily. In the US today, about 1.2 million people are living with HIV and of those numbers, 1 in 7 people who have HIV have no awareness of being a carrier. Not commonly discussed, HIV often slides under the radar of conversation due to extreme stigma such as HIV only being present amongst certain people groups and the shame often associated with the diagnoses due to those stereotypes. No matter the rumors or discomfort that exists around the discussion, the only sure way around that is to normalize talking about HIV and AIDS and spread awareness of the community resources available to those who have or think they may have HIV.
This week brought the pleasure of sitting down via Zoom with the Executive Director of the North Idaho AIDS Coalition, Theresa Davis. Through our conversation, I was delighted to learn about the many services that NIAC offers and it is of great honor to highlight these services to those living in North Idaho. I would encourage readers to take note of the services, even if you do not think you know anyone living with HIV. Knowledge bridges the gaps in our day-to-day interactions with others, and you never know when you can encourage a stranger or a loved one to seek out assistance through community organizations.
The first service to highlight is the HIV, Hep-C Prevention Program. This program offers:
Free HIV and Hep-C testing
Free behavioral-risk counseling
Free health care referrals
Educational opportunities including preventative care, condom distribution, events, and speaking at local universities
Next, the Ryan White Part B Program:
Case Management- this allows for those living with HIV to find specialists and housing in their area
AIDS Drug Assistance Program- Grants and financial assistance to help cover the cost of HIV medications
HIV social groups
Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS: (HOPWA)
Permanent housing placement- helps those living with HIV/AIDS to secure stable housing for better long term care and medication management
Utility assistance- also offer help for gas, food, and rent/mortgage for those falling behind
Telehealth- those without computer/internet access can come into the facility to use computers for doctor appointments
Client Food Pantry:
Free non-perishable foods and hygiene products as well as PPE
Harm Reduction (Syringe Service Program):
Free syringe exchange- exchange unclean needs for sterile syringes and cookers
Free syringe disposal- removes syringes found in the community via hotline number 208-416-7139
Safe injection kits
Free naloxone distribution and classes on how to administer (available in large amounts for clinics or organizations)
If desired, free referrals for recovery services
Community Outreach Program: (Mobile Screening)
Free mobile screening for Region 1 and 2 of Idaho
Free behavioral-risk counseling
Free syringe exchange and disposal
Free safe injection kits
Free lock boxes for medications
NIAC offers many services for those in the community, even if they may not be at risk or have HIV. Free testing and sexual education as well as working with those whose top priority is to help others in a judgment-free zone is an extremely beneficial resource to seek out and be aware of.
NIAC proudly founds itself upon being an inclusive and accepting organization in North Idaho whose mission is to dissolve negative stereotypes within healthcare by offering warm, friendly, and free services to those in need. Access to sexual healthcare, preventative care, and education should be equal for all people.
The biggest challenge that organizations such as NIAC face in North Idaho is visibility. The reality is that LGBTQIA+ people exist here. Sex workers exist here. Drug users exist here. People with STIs exist here. The stigmas that certain people are faced with often forcing them to remain underground. Obtaining new information about services in our area as well as being willing to navigate conversations about sexual health is a significant step in breaking the "us versus them" narrative that is prevalent in our community about such topics.
No matter your opinions, let’s work together to be communicators and share knowledge when given the opportunity to bring more people together and offer support to those who deserve just that.
About Morgen Buck:
Passionate about creative writing, Morgen plans to speak to the topics she cares most about including mental health, human rights, advocacy, and person-to-person connection.
Morgen's hope with volunteering with the NIPA is that the bridge that divides people can be diminished through creating safe spaces for people to ask questions and challenge their thinking as well as encouraging new connections and relationships.