HIV/AIDS is not something people hear enough about on a regular basis anymore. While millions continue to be impacted by the disease, it’s not the way it was when HIV/AIDS first emerged 30 years ago. The HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Ypsilanti has made it their responsibility since its founding in 1986, to connect and educate the community it serves in Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston and Washtenaw Counties. It has developed into a leading HIV/AIDS service provider in the state.
In recent years, the HARC outreach van helped create dialogue on HIV/AIDS education, treatment and care. Last year, 74 HIV and 86 Hepatitis C tests were conducted on-site and 2,326 members of the community accessed the van before it was forced to retire this past fall after 12 years of dedicated service.
Several supporters and local organizations realized what an important tool this van has been and reached out to help. During HARC’s Dining for Dollars event in May, donations were made for a new van and a dance marathon was held at Ann Arbor Huron High School to benefit the future of HARC’s outreach services. Grants have also been awarded to HARC from both the United Way of Washtenaw and AIDS United, a national organization.
“The most amazing thing happened through the Bank of Ann Arbor’s Project Help competition for grant money on Facebook. We were so close to third place and lost by less than 20 votes. The bank’s CEO, Tim Marshall, called afterward to let us know we would receive $2,500 anyway for the Energy and Enthusiasm Award,” said Jimena Loveluck, president/CEO of HARC for almost 12 years now. “We’ve been amazed by the support we’ve received.”
Because of these successful fundraising efforts, HARC has raised more than $20,000 to support the purchase of a new outreach van tentatively scheduled to hit the road in mid-July.
“Wejust got the new van. The summer is a busy time and we really want to try and get the outreach van out there,” said Loveluck, adding that they aren’t done raising funds.
The vehicle is a 20′ Class B motor home that includes a bathroom, running water, electrical outlets and a generator to make additional services possible.
With the new van, HARC plans to offer expanded STD screening, additional education and counseling services in partnership with the Washtenaw County Health Department, Medicaid outreach and enrollment in collaboration with the Washtenaw Health Initiative for the many people without health insurance. It also plans on further engagement with United Way in accomplishing the community-wide Access to Healthcare Initiative, and increase opportunities to leverage funding with expanded, collaborative services.
“People aren’t necessarily going to just walk in our doors and seek us out. There are a lot of reasons for that. This is why we offer free services right there (in the van), that are accessible to them. They may not even know where to go, so we bring the services to them where they live,” said Loveluck. “With this outreach van we are making HIV/AIDS real for people and will hopefully break down the stigma to help people understand this is an important part of their health and we are here to ensure there aren’t any barriers that prevent them from getting treatment and education. Part of it, is also building a rapport and trust within the community.”
A majority of the people who access the van are age 30 and under, according to Loveluck. “This is a really important way to reach our youth as this hugely impacts them. We know that once we add the STD screening, we may see more youth coming to the van. A lot of youth don’t have access to transportation or they are not aware of the resources that exist,” she said. “Parents, particularly mothers, may want accurate information and resources for their teenagers. We’ve had people come by when they just want to talk with a prevention specialist about a family member who is living with HIV/AIDS.”
The outreach van will continue to stop at existing sites where HARC has been a positive presence for a long time, but may add more sites in the future as the new vehicle allows them to do that. “This is a really great opportunity and it confirms how important this work is that we’re doing,” said Loveluck. “This project is unique as no other organization is doing this. It’s nice to give ourselves a pat on the back and to see our efforts being recognized.”
HIV/AIDS Resource Center
3075 Clark Road, Suite 203
Ypsilanti, MI 48197
HARC outreach van sites:
For Syringe Access Program Info call Lemont at 734-961-1082
Messias Apostolic Church parking area (across from Joe’s Market)
Monday’s 2 to 4 p.m.
Harriet and Adams Streets
Parking lot between Hope Clinic and Currie’s Barber Shop
Wednesday’s 2 to 4 p.m.
Harriet and Hamilton Streets
St. Andrews Breakfast Program at St. Andrew’s Church
Thursday’s 7:30 to 9 a.m.
Catherine and Division Streets
Willow Run Market
Friday’s 2 to 4 p.m.
Ridge Road in Ypsilanti Township