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FERNDALE – The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the charitable organization established by the ice cream manufacturer, has made a $10,000 grant to the Michigan Positive Action Coalition to support its efforts to build effective grassroots leadership among people living with HIV and AIDS.
The one-year grant will fund legislative education training sessions for people affected by HIV and AIDS in addition to legislative education activities in Washington, D.C. and a bi-monthly newsletter to inform the community about public policy issues that impact HIV care and prevention.
“We’re really excited about this grant,” said Mark Peterson, director of MI-POZ. “The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation has a long history of supporting projects that are working for systemic social change across the United States. We felt this was a perfect match.”
Currently operating under the umbrella of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project, MI-POZ is the only project of its kind in Michigan that teaches people living with HIV/AIDS how to advocate for themselves and educate their elected representatives. MI-POZ received its first financial support in March 2004, a grant from the Michigan AIDS Fund. With the MAF grant, MI-POZ trained 15 people and organized meetings with state senators in Lansing to discuss pending legislation on HIV issues.
MI-POZ expects to hold its next training seminar in June, and is making a special effort to recruit participants from HIV-affected African-American communities in the Detroit metro area.
The training seminars are led by MI-POZ Legislative Director Rick Otterbein, who has been actively involved in legislative education activities for nearly a decade. The training workshop provides participants with basic information about state and federally-funded HIV care and prevention programs and the advocate’s role in that process, including information about how government works, methods for individuals to affect change within their communities, specific strategies to impact policy decisions, and communication techniques.
The training has proven successful in preparing its participants to discuss HIV issues with their elected officials, said Otterbein.
“HIV-affected persons are more likely to participate in public policy development when they feel they have some degree of power over the outcome, and advocacy training workshops are effective in instilling these feelings of empowerment,” said Otterbein.
Anyone interested in attending a free MI-POZ training is encouraged to call Mark Peterson at 248-545-1435.