John Ridge has been volunteering with Equitas Health in Columbus since June of 2013 and over the last three years he has become an instrumental force for good in programs across the agency. If you visit Equitas Health, you’ll more than likely see John’s smiling and determined face around our halls.
While John currently serves as an HIV Test Counselor and Safe Point Intervention Specialist, his first experience with Equitas Health was actually for HIV testing. John felt that his test counselor “did a good job of normalizing the testing process, making it less intimidating.” Pleasantly surprised by the ease of his experience, John thought to himself, “I’d kinda like to do that.”
From there, John volunteered in just about every capacity imaginable. From AIDS Walk and Art for Life to staffing the front desk to training as an HIV test counselor to volunteering each week at Safe Point, John is one of Equitas Health’s most committed volunteers. John is happy to play a part in the work of Equitas Health, saying “Equitas Health is great at what they do. If I can help someone else have a better testing experience, then that’s good. I love relating to people through test counseling, and I’ve seen that non-judgmental healthcare is incredibly important.”
One of the things that continues to draw John back to volunteer at Equitas Health is the wide variety of ways to help, “I feel that as the organization evolves, the volunteers evolve with it. I’ve done a lot of fun events, met a lot of cool and interesting people, but I’ve also had the opportunity to do things that are outside of my comfort zone here at Equitas Health.”
Learn more about the different volunteer opportunities offered at Equitas Health by reading the following article “Volunteers Make Our World Go Round.” We currently offer volunteer opportunities in Columbus and Dayton. If you’re interested in volunteering at one of our regional offices or have any other questions about volunteering, contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Ashley McIntosh at email@example.com.
Courtney Elrod, MSW, LSW, Housing Supervisor
At Equitas Health, we believe everyone has the right to safe and affordable housing. As a social determinant of health, stable housing is linked to improved outcomes across each stage of the HIV care continuum. For those living with chronic conditions such as HIV, housing stability is a key component for successful patient health management.
To better serve and support those that we serve, we provided housing services to 350 people living with HIV throughout Ohio last year. Through various programs and partner agencies including Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS through the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development and Ohio Development Services Agency, our housing case managers work directly with tenants to ensure program participants remain safely and stably housed through referrals to local resources and access to financial assistance as needed. The housing case managers meet at minimum every three months with each tenant to assess the housing unit, assist with access to basic needs including food and transportation, and develop goals to lead towards housing independence.
Housing services support our commitment to healthcare for those living with HIV, which is evident in our program outcomes. Of the tenant’s in Columbus’s long-term housing program, 81% have achieved viral suppression, with 94% of tenants remaining successfully housing for longer than one year, and 100% of tenants actively engaged in HIV medical care. For comparison, the CDC estimates of all people living with HIV in the United States, 40% are engaged hi HIV medical care, and 30% have achieved viral suppression. Housing is healthcare!
Merissa Hawkins, Statewide Initiatives Coordinator
Across the U.S. we continue to see that youth and other populations are disproportionately impacted by HIV. In Summit County, home of our Akron office, we are seeing this national trend up close. In 2014, there were 38 new HIV diagnoses in Summit County; 50% of these new diagnoses were among youth ages 15 to 29. African Americans in Summit County make up 14% of the county’s population, but represent 46% of people living with HIV and 61% of new diagnoses. A closer look at African American men who have sex with men account for 69% of new diagnoses in 2014 and 59% of all people living with HIV in Akron.
By working in the field, Akron HIV Test Counselor Chris Harris has been incredibly effective at reaching those populations who need to be tested and linked to care. Chris has helped expand our testing efforts to reach our most at-risk populations. The Akron HIV positivity rate for Equitas Health’s testing program, which represents the rate of diagnosing new HIV infections, is 6.5%, the highest rate for any of our offices. By comparison, the State of Ohio testing programs averages less than 1% in most cities.
At our Akron location as well as our other testing location around the state, if someone receives a positive result, more testing is required prior to confirm the person’s HIV status. The test counselor and the client will discuss a plan to go over the results of the confirmatory results in the coming week, talking about options as far as case management through Equitas Health and notifying the county public health disease intervention specialist (DIS). The DIS will work with the client on partner notifications and also linkage to care within 30 days. Our testing counselors work hard to ensure that no one leaves feeling like they don’t have the support and care they need to move forward and lead a healthy life.
We’re thankful to the Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation for awarding us $4,000 to help expand the Akron HIV Testing Project. These resources combined with funding from Summit County will allow us to continue to grow the HIV prevention services that are critically needed in Summit Count.
Ashley McIntosh, Volunteer Coordinator
At Equitas Health we have the good fortune of working with hundreds of committed and passionate volunteers who support us through impactful, mission-driven service opportunities. In 2016, over 2,000 hours of volunteer and pro bono time was donated to the agency, translating to an economic impact of over $68,000 dollars. Volunteers are the people who make our programs and events possible, from large-scale events like AIDS Walk Ohio to the day-in, day-out work of the HIV/STI Hotline, none of this would be possible without the commitment of our volunteers.
Volunteers continue to have a unique impact for the community. On a daily basis, volunteers have been an integral part in delivering the life-saving services of Equitas Health through programs like Safe Point and HIV Test Counseling. Las year, special events were a key way to engage volunteers, where they made AIDS Walk, Art for Life, RED Dayton, the Transforming Care conference, and the client holiday dinners resounding successes!
Beginning last fall, we had the privilege of partnering with dozens of brilliant volunteer attorneys to provide name and gender change services for individuals seeking to change their identification documents. This winter, volunteers have made thousands of condom packs for the Free Condom Project, assembled hundreds of holiday gift bags for our clients, and reached countless individuals through community outreach through programs like Project INK and The Voice.
Are you ready to make a lasting impact on the community as an Equitas Health volunteer? Sign up for one of our upcoming trainings today.
Tom W. Davis, donated $20,000 last week in support of our Naloxone assistance program after reading the article “Rising price of life-saving overdose drug naloxone worries addicts’ families” in The Columbus Dispatch. Join us in thanking Tom for his generous support! READ MORE
During its annual meeting last month, the Equitas Health Board of Trustees elected Sam Rinehart, CFP, CLU as Chair and Densil R.R. Porteous II as Vice-Chair.
Recognize someone special who has impacted your life through a gift to Equitas Health in their honor or memory. The names received with your gift will be featured on special displays in our Medical Centers, offices, and on our website through the holidays and into the new year. Give now.
The Ohio AIDS Coalition and the Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity have released the 2017 Marketplace Formulary Analysis. This in-depth drug identification tool for insurance provider’s formularies includes all medications on the OHDAP list and hepatitis C treatments, as well as some of our pharmacy’s top-filled prescriptions. As the year unfolds, we expect there to be some changes to drug coverage, the most up to date version can be found on OAC’s website.
Name & Gender Change Legal Clinic
February 1 | 6PM-8PM | Akron
During open Name and Gender Change Legal Clinic hours, trained attorneys will provide one-on-one counseling about the gender- and name-changing process.
Positive Youth Leadership Summit
March 16-19 | Columbus
The 11th Positive Youth Leadership Summit will prepare and empower HIV-positive young people from across the Midwest to effectively advocate for themselves and their communities.
Greater Dayton LGBTQ+ Youth Summit
March 18 | Dayton
This FREE day-long event draws LGBTQ+ youth, allied youth, and youth-serving professionals (educators, counselors, other professionals) from the Greater Dayton area and beyond.