For Ka'Juan Hill, doing HIV/AIDS advocacy and outreach is not just a job. It's a calling. By day, he's a community outreach specialist for Unified HIV Health and Beyond, and, whenever free time allows, he carries the title of Let's Stop HIV Ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Earlier this year, Hill partnered with Kendell Jones, research and outreach representative for the Wayne State University Prevention Team, to start planning something new for the community.
"Before the pandemic happened, we were planning a new group to be called Once Upon a Friday," Hill said. "It was just going to be a safe space to have conversations about safer sex and mental health issues. Just a place where people could come and be themselves. There wouldn't be any age limit, like at the Ruth Ellis Center. We were going to do this in collaboration with the Detroit Recovery Project."
Then COVID-19 hit.
"We saw that people couldn't go anywhere or do anything and we started giving away bags of food, supplies and, in conjunction with my work, safe sex materials and supplies," Hill said. "We were inspired by the work that the Trans Sistas of Color Project – Detroit does, but we thought there were more people who needed help than just trans women."
Initially, Hill and Jones pulled together and purchased the supplies – things like toothbrushes, tissues, food, socks, hand sanitizer and masks – themselves. They gave out 20 bags on the first go around. Then they received assistance from their jobs and did another round of bag giveaways. This time they gave out 42. Now, once again sponsored by their respective agencies, Hill and Jones are doing yet another giveaway and the goal this time is 100 bags.
To request a bag, people need only to reach out to Hill via email or social media. Bags can be delivered throughout metro Detroit.
"We would like to be able to help more people, to that end we are looking for some additional drivers," Hill said. "That would be a big help."