Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Andrea Capere sat down with Erick Seelbach, executive director, Dory Nies, client services team lead, and Jacob Lucas, prevention and health coordinator of PCAF to talk about their mission.
PCAF’s mission is to prevent HIV infection through education and service, assist those with HIV/AIDS, address related health problems and combat associated stigma and discrimination. Starting out as the Pierce County AIDS Foundation in Tacoma, the organization has expanded to serving all of Thurston, Lewis and Mason county, while shortening their name to PCAF.
“For me HIV has impacted my life since I was a kid,” says Seelbach. “I came out into the beginnings of the epidemic as a young queer person and so it has always been a part of my life. My first friend died what I was 18.” He goes on to say the epidemic is not over, there are still people living and dying of HIV and their needs to be addressed. “Almost everyone who works at PCAF has some kind of connection,” he adds.
“We have about 610 clients total, who are clients that live with HIV among our counties,” says Nies. “the beauty of what we do is that we get to meet clients where they are at and start from there and figure out their priorities are and work with them to connect them to resources and supportive services that would be helpful to them.”
One example of how they help their clients feel good about themselves and respond to their needs, came from one of their Case Managers, who suggested that PCAF have funds for transgender people who want to buy makeup. They were able to secure the funds and now are able to provide gift cards to their transgender clients for makeup.
“Our job as an organization is to do social justice work as well,” says Seelbach. “It’s not just about how to take care of a person who walks through the door, it’s about how do we work to address racism which is harder, deeper, work. But we have a commitment as an organization to figure out how we are addressing racism within the walls of our organization.”
PCAF also works on keeping HIV awareness in the forefront, as they are finding that people are not talking about it or as aware of it as they were in the 80s. He says part of that reason is the visible nature has faded, as medicines have helped suppress the symptoms and the death rate has slowed down, due to advancements in those medicines.
“We are really shifting in the last couple years to thinking more about what is the end of the epidemic look like,” Seelbach says. “We have newer tools available that mean we could actually end this epidemic. And that’s not something we had 10 years ago, 15 years ago, when I was coming out. So, there’s hope. If we have the resources.”
Prevention is other side of PCAF’s work. “One of the bigger pieces of prevention is definitely testing,” says Lucas, “just knowing your status and things like that.” The 20-30-minute testing appointment also allows PCAF to learn what their clients’ other needs are, and either help them if they can, or point them toward other resources that are available to help. Testing should be done at least once a year.
Another game changer has been PrEP, a pill that when taken daily, has been shown to be 90 percent effective in preventing HIV. PCAF’s prevention team helps their clients navigate their insurance, find doctors and even find other funds to pay for the drug if necessary.
For more information about PCAF and their services, watch the above video and visit the PCAF website. PCAF is always looking for volunteers and donors as well.
You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.