Screening for HIV, infection prevention and community involvement are among the best ways to contain and control the virus that causes AIDS. That’s the message a group of Mandela Washington Fellows heard earlier this year from an AIDS prevention group in the state of Delaware.
“Get Involved. Make a Difference!” is the call to action AIDS Delaware uses to bring volunteers into its organization to encourage people to get a free and confidential test for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
AIDS Delaware is one of many community groups nationwide that welcomed a group of Mandela Washington Fellows earlier this year. They were “eager to learn about how we do things,” executive director John Gardner explained.
Since shortly after its founding in 1984 by citizens concerned about the toll that a newly discovered disease was taking on their state, AIDS Delaware has attracted a committed group of volunteers to spread the prevention message. The nonprofit group makes it easy to volunteer by offering a simple online sign-up form.
Client confidentiality is a priority of AIDS Delaware, Gardner told the young African leaders. Confidentiality of personal medical information is protected by a U.S. law that also covers caregivers and people who pay for care.
AIDS Delaware encourages people of every race, sexuality and age to learn about how to prevent the spread of HIV. It helps people who are infected understand why they need to stay on a prescribed medication regime. And it attempts to get in contact with people who may not be getting the care they need so that they can gain access to care, Gardner said.
AIDS Delaware’s outreach activities include Do the Right Thing 4 Life, educational sessions that use everyday language and are held at community gathering places like beauty salons and barber shops. Through its Peers Achieving Change Together project, teens use dance, music and poetry pieces they have created to emphasize that they need to take “responsibility for improving their own lives and the lives of those around them.”
AIDS Delaware receives financial support from the U.S. government and the state of Delaware and from individual, corporate and foundation donations. Those funds support client services like assistance for housing, food and transportation, and for counseling. Its annual AIDS Walk is a community highlight that brings in donations from people who back volunteers who walk through their neighborhoods to raise awareness of HIV prevention through testing.
“Take the first step today,” AIDS Delaware encourages.