Our quarterly roundup of news, information, events, and more
Going the Distance
TEAM TO END AIDS (T2) Los Angeles Raises $34 Million for APLA Health
Since it first debuted in 1999, TEAM TO END AIDS Los Angeles (T2) has provided training to athletes at all fitness levels to prepare for marathons, triathlons, and trail runs—all while raising funds for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. The program began as part of the National AIDS Marathon training program and quickly evolved to become one of the country’s pre-eminent endurance training programs.
Now, 18 years and nearly $34 million later, T2 readies to close its current chapter after the Skechers Performance L.A. Marathon on Sunday, March 19. This final T2 event will include 75 athletes who are working to raise $100,000 for APLA Health’s services.
“When our program began, the first antiretroviral medications to treat HIV infection were only a few years old,” says Kerry Quakenbush, T2 LA’s director of endurance events. “Some were toxic, and many people didn’t yet have access to them. Our events were able to help APLA pick up where medicine fell short even at a time when people affected by HIV were finally beginning to lead longer, healthier lives.”
As of 2017, T2 and APLA Health have trained roughly 11,000 participants who have participated in 44 events worldwide. Teams have raced everywhere from Los Angeles, Honolulu, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. to Amsterdam, Athens, and Sydney.
The tens of millions of dollars raised by these athletes has positively impacted thousands of lives in Los Angeles County. Thanks to their efforts, APLA Health has continued to provide vitally important HIV support services such as our food pantry and nutrition education program, benefits counseling, housing support, as well as medical, dental, and mental health care and HIV prevention education.
The thousands of athletes who have joined forces with T2 through the years have all been heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS. To celebrate all of the years of T2’s great accomplishments, please consider donating to our athletes at t2eala.com/LA17/donate.
“I’d like to personally thank every person who made the commitment to train with us and participate in a T2 event,” Quakenbush says. “Your efforts have made a positive difference in someone else’s life—and that is no small feat. APLA Health could have never gotten to where we are today without you.”
The spirit of peer-to-peer fundraising will live on with the upcoming launch of an exciting new program for individuals of all stripes who want to give back to their community with panache. Stay tuned.
A letter from:
Craig E. Thompson, CEO
There’s no other way to say it. So far, 2017 has been a challenge.
Every day it seems there is a new piece of news—or an executive order—that negatively affects many of us. For our patients and clients, in particular, we’ve already seen the emotional toll this news cycle is taking.
As we wade into uncertain times, however, I want you to know that APLA Health will continue to fight for health care equity and provide support to, and promote the well-being of, the most vulnerable in our community.
When we first opened our doors in 1983, inspired activists came together in the name of those dying from AIDS-related complications in the face of an unresponsive government and hostile members of the larger community. We have continued since then to fight many difficult battles—all in the name of improving the lives of the people we serve. This will not change.
At the time of my writing, it remains to be seen what will happen to the Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare). Rep. Tom Price was recently confirmed as secretary of Health and Human Services, but, so far, no tangible ACA replacement has been put on the table by Congress, and any “repeal and replace” action would likely not take effect until 2018. We continue to closely monitor these developments and advocate for improving upon the existing ACA framework rather than leaving millions uninsured—including up to 5 million in California alone.
An integral part of our work this year is that of our Government Affairs team, who monitor all that happens in the political landscape on a local, state, and national level. In the last several months alone, they have worked to defeat two California ballot initiatives that could have posed harmful consequences to the community, and helped pass AB 2640, which made California the first state in the country to guarantee that those who test negative for HIV receive information on prevention interventions such PrEP and PEP. We expect other states will follow California’s lead in this regard.
This year, they continue their good work by co-sponsoring SB 239, authored by state Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), which would modify laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV in the state of California. These laws, enacted in the 1980s and ’90s, are outdated and disproportionately impact people of color and women. Updating these laws will reduce stigma and prevent people from going to prison simply because they are living with a chronic, manageable disease.
One of the other things that helps keep us strong in uncertain times is the support the community shows us at our annual fundraising events. These include the return of the Southland Theatre Artists’ Goodwill Event (S.T.A.G.E.) on May 13 at the Saban Theatre with the evening’s theme being “Idols & Icons.” More details on that are coming soon.
We’re also very excited to announce that we are bringing Dining Out For Life back to Los Angeles. This citywide event invites diners to give back to their community by enjoying a meal at one of their favorite restaurants on Thursday, April 27. By joining us, you’re helping APLA Health and Project Angel Food’s efforts to fight HIV and ensure everyone has access to the food they need to live healthier lives.
Lastly, I’d like to give an extra special thank you to all of our TEAM TO END AIDS (T2) Los Angeles marathoners who will be running March 19, capping off an amazing legacy of T2’s contribution to our agency. APLA Health will be making exciting updates to this exciting program. Keep an eye out for new developments.
I don’t need to tell you that the next few months could have some unpleasant surprises in store for not only APLA Health but the communities we serve, including some of the most fragile and vulnerable populations, such as older individuals living with HIV/AIDS. I am proud that we have a long history of fighting for what’s right and delivering care to anyone who needs us. We remain committed to this principle.
Craig E. Thompson
Chief Executive Officer
Getting to Know:
We are only one month into the new year, and if there is one thing we know, it’s that the political landscape is changing rapidly and, often, unpredictably.
From a continued surge in the number of homeless individuals in Los Angeles County to the uncertainty of what may happen to the Affordable Care Act and our ability to deliver care to the communities we serve, there is no shortage of issues to monitor so APLA Health can continue to affect positive change.
Our Government Affairs team is integral to this process and has a long history of advancing LGBT and social justice initiatives such as reducing health care disparities, and advocating for optimal HIV/AIDS and health care policy, programs, funding, and legislation. The team works at all levels of government—local, state, and federal—meeting and speaking with elected officials, and other decision and policy makers to ensure that underserved communities have access to the care and support they need to thrive.
We recently asked each member of Government Affairs to tell us a bit more about the issues they are focusing on in 2017 and beyond.
Phil Curtis, Director of Government Affairs
My personal goal at the moment is to stay calm and not get distracted. The health care environment is hugely uncertain right now, but Government Affairs is very clear about its goals and objectives and will do our utmost to protect the programs, policies, funding, and legislation that APLA Health needs to successfully deliver our services to the community. We will advocate to protect programs like California’s health care expansion, including Medi-Cal, and funding for federally qualified health centers, which our Gleicher/Chen and Long Beach health centers rely on to operate. We’ll also focus on protecting funding for the Ryan White Program and research at the National Institutes of Health. APLA Health’s mission is to ensure health care for all, and we’re in it for the long haul.
Craig Pulsipher, State Affairs Specialist
It’s my job to keep an eye on what is going in Sacramento and how that might impact our clients and patients. In 2017, I’m focusing on maintaining health coverage for vulnerable populations in California, especially people living with HIV. I am working closely with advocates from across the state to oppose any policy changes that would reduce access to quality health care or interfere with California’s progress toward ending the HIV epidemic. I am also working with a statewide coalition, Californians for HIV Criminalization Reform, to modernize the outdated, discriminatory laws that criminalize HIV transmission and bring them in line with our current understanding of HIV prevention, treatment, and transmission.
Katja Nelson, Local Affairs Specialist
On the local level, my goals involve engaging with the city and county of Los Angeles as they implement strategies to address the homelessness crisis and housing shortage that acutely affect people living with HIV. APLA Health’s Housing Support Services program is at the forefront of Los Angeles’s efforts to make sure people affected by HIV/AIDS have access to housing. I’m also working with city and county governments on Los Angeles’s “Getting to Zero” efforts. APLA Health’s PrEP program, designated by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health as a PrEP Center of Excellence, along with our targeted health education and all-inclusive health care and support services are helping make an end to the epidemic possible, so our collective goal this year is to maintain and increase funding for these essential programs and services.
In an effort to keep our supporters updated about key policy issues affecting the LGBT, HIV, and health care communities, the Government Affairs team will be sending biweekly updates out via email beginning the week of February 20. Join our mailing list and stay tuned!
To learn more about Government Affairs, please visit aplahealth.org/advocacy/what-we-do.
In Memoriam: Matt Redman, Co-Founder of AIDS Project Los Angeles
Out Now! APLA Health’s 2016 Annual Report
We are proud to announce that our annual report for 2016 is now available.
Thank You, Dr. Vern Eveland
From Santa Monica High School Peer Education to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
Santa Monica High School in the mid-1990s was the right place at the right time for Sharmeen Premjee. During her freshman year, Premjee’s English teacher partnered with APLA to launch an AIDS Awareness Club, which affected her profoundly.
“Many of us were impacted by the epidemic and felt and immense sense of responsibility to heighten campus awareness on the issues,” she recalls. “This spawned a group of young advocates committed to promoting safe sexual health practices free of judgment.”
Working on HIV advocacy with APLA proved to be a pivotal endeavor for Premjee, jump-starting what would become a career in public health. Today she is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and coordinating a community, rights, and gender special initiative for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculous, and Malaria. In this role, Premjee is responsible for a $15 million special initiative aimed at supporting community groups to better engage in Global Fund processes. This includes peer-led technical assistance, capacity building of key population networks—such as men who have sex with men, sex workers, trans* people, people living with HIV, and drug users—and regional civil society communication and coordination platforms. “These resources are meant to be catalytic given the harsh reality that many national approaches to the AIDS response lack sufficient community involvement,” she explains.
This work has taken her around the world, learning first-hand how different organizations and countries are approaching the fight against the AIDS pandemic. One of the organizations she worked with was the Global Forum on MSM & HIV, with which APLA Health is closely aligned. “You can imagine my pleasure when I started working with the MSM Global Forum and [executive director] George Ayala and realized that APLA is its fiscal agent,” she notes. “I felt like my life came full circle.” That also led to her reconnecting with APLA Health at the 21st AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, in July 2016.
In regards to the global fight against AIDS and what it will take for us to achieve an AIDS-free generation, Premjee notes that it’s vitally important that people living with HIV are closely involved. “Ensuring that people living with HIV are front and center in all policy-making decisions regarding HIV treatment and prevention [is crucial],” she says. “Taking a purely biomedical approach won’t make a ‘dent’ on its own. Coupling this with a rights-based approach that challenges barriers to access is far more effective.”
And there is much for people around the world to learn from the fight against AIDS over the last 35 years. “The Global Fund also works on TB and Malaria… and I often marvel at some of the strategies employed by TB and malaria advocates that are essentially taken from AIDS activism playbooks,” Premjee says. “In this sense, society owes a major debt of gratitude to the [U.S.] AIDS [activist] movement, which had to constantly evolve and adapt its strategies—whether diversifying the ways we mobilize our resources or establishing relationships with counterpart organizations. These contributions are a global public good.”
To learn more about The Global Fund, visit theglobalfund.org.
HIV Matters: COVID-19 Vaccine Update
1.21.21 - 6 to 7:15 p.m.
Information about COVID vaccines can be confusing. This webinar will explain the vaccines that are currently available and review the latest information on vaccine access.
HIV & Older Adults (HIVE)
Come check out the events we have planned for men 50+ who are living with HIV.