By Dawn Wolfe
YPSILANTI – It’s a beautiful thing when people find their passion.
For Jimena Loveluck, executive director of Washtenaw County’s HIV/AIDS Resource Center, it was a passion for equality that led her to work in the field of HIV/AIDS.
“I just felt a huge connection to the issue, to the communities that were being affected – and I also was attracted to working in the field of HIV and AIDS because it brought together so many different issues that were of concern to me, having to do with racism and homophobia and sexism – all the ‘isms’ that we think of,” she said.
Loveluck discovered her calling as an MSW candidate at Boston College, where the Ann Arbor native had her first field placement at a community health organization, and the next at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health AIDS bureau in 1999. After graduation, she became one of the first bilingual, Latina HIV test counselors at the department.
After a few years, though, Loveluck returned to the community-based health organization where she had her first field placement as a grad student to become the agency’s first director of HIV services. She was there for seven years and helped build that program’s yearly income from $100,000 to $500,000, including federal Ryan White CARE Act funding.
While her passion for equality took Loveluck to Boston and to her work with HIV/AIDS, it was her passion for her family that brought her back to Ann Arbor. Citing “the challenges of being in a bigger city with kids,” Loveluck, her husband, and their two children returned to her hometown at the end of the summer of 1999.
Not long after relocating, Loveluck was working at a community health center in southwest Detroit and began the process of applying to be on HARC’S board of directors. However, soon after being approved to serve on the board, Loveluck was asked to apply for a larger role – executive director. It is a position she has held ever since.
“One of the most instrumental parts in swaying me to accept the position as the director of HARC was meeting the staff. It was so wonderful to see how many people there were that were so committed to the issue of HIV and AIDS,” she said of HARC’s staff which offers comprehensive HIV/AIDS services to people in Washtenaw, Jackson, Lenawee and Livingston counties.
Infections increase, funds decrease
Loveluck said that one reason funding for agencies like hers is getting tighter is “a lack of that sense of urgency that existed” during the early years of the disease, and that a lack of concern for the people being hurt is at least part of the reason for the Bush administration’s continued flat funding of AIDS programs.
“If you look at … which communities are getting most affected by HIV, you’re looking at communities that have historically been disenfranchised, that often don’t have a voice and that, quite frankly, I don’t feel like our current administration has great concerns about,” she said.
Citing the 2004 Vice Presidential debate, during which neither candidate could respond to a question about the rate of HIV infections in African-American women, Loveluck said, “It’s unconscionable that our leaders would not have a sense of HIV in our own country.”
At the same time that funds are shrinking, Washtenaw county is among the areas where infection rates are increasing. “When we were six months into 2004, we already had the same number of HIV infections for all of 2003,” Loveluck said.
Hear great music, help a great cause
One way to help Jimena Loveluck keep HARC in business will be coming up March 19, when Sir James Galway and his wife, Lady Jeanne Galway, will perform at Hill Auditorium, and will be the featured guests at a special post-concert fundraising reception for HARC. Tickets for the concert, which begins at 8 p.m., are $75 through HARC; tickets for the reception only are $50, and tickets for both events are $100. All proceeds for tickets purchased through HARC will go to the agency. The reception will take place next door to Hill Auditorium at the Michigan League. To order tickets through HARC, call Jimena Loveluck or Eliza Marroni at 866-448-8378 by March 11. For more information about HARC, call 734-572-9355 or visit the organization’s web site at http://comnet.org/harc.