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 Robert Kam sat down with Ace Robinson, chief executive officer for the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF), which has an office in Olympia.
The Pierce County AIDS Foundation has been around for over 30 years. When it started it focused on helping those with HIV and related illnesses in the Tacoma area. Since then, they have grown to encompass other parts of Pierce, Mason, Lewis and Thurston counties.
Today, PCAF helps people living with HIV to meet basic needs including food and housing, as well as healthcare and other personal support. They also conduct outreach towards preventions of HIV and combating the stigma related to the disease.
“The HIV Epidemic hasn’t really slowed down,” shares Robinson. “The communities that are highly impacted might have shifted a little, but the epidemic is still with us unfortunately.”
HIV In 2023
One of the best things about today, compared to 30 years ago, is that there are now drugs that can help reduce the risk of HIV should you be exposed. There are also more options for treatments that are easier on your body and, Robinson points out, your lifespan will not be shortened.
The treatments, if taken correctly, can also make it so that people living with HIV cannot spread the disease, explains Robinson. Which, of course, is a huge boost to combating the spread of the disease.
PCAF offers free HIV and STI testing Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary, you can just walk in. HIV test results are given immediately and STI results the next day. Their center is a judgement-free zone and they take great care to make everyone feel comfortable.
“Trust and believe we have heard it all and we don’t care about any of it,” Robinson says. “All we want to do is make sure that you stay on the prevention side, if possible, of any of those things and then if there is a need for treatment, we want to make sure you get treatment fast and easy.”
We also now have vaccines for hepatitis A and B, as well as effective treatments for hepatitis A, B and C. But you have to be tested first. And then get on treatment and stay on treatment.
PCAF has case managers who help people with referrals to resources, advocacy and emotional support. They also take all insurances and can help you if you have no insurance get free healthcare. Services are provided in both English and Spanish.
Their focus includes whole-body care such as asking questions like, “Where did you sleep last night?” “Are you hungry?” “Did you eat before you came here?” “Are you getting the care you need around your substance abuse?” “Are you getting the care you need about your depression, bipolar disorder, etc.?” For veterans, they want to make sure people are getting the care they need for their PTSD.
“The biggest predictors to not just HIV acquisition or STD acquisition, but progression and unfortunately death is whether or not you are getting the care you need around your brain health and whether or not you’re getting housed and so that’s why it’s so important to ask that,” shares Robinson.
You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 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 Thurston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.