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Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012

Issue of the Week: Walking For AIDS Patients

Plus: Hero of the Week

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Recent medical breakthroughs have increased the life expectancy and quality of life for patients with HIV and AIDS, but the epidemic is far from over. New HIV infections in Wisconsin are up 19% this year, and those patients face an array of challenges that aren’t always accurately portrayed in the media.

“Unfortunately, there is a misperception about how patients manage HIV and AIDS,” says Mike Gifford, president of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). “Many pharmaceutical companies will have paid advertising showing people with HIV mountain climbing, and while we’re happy for those folks, the reality is that the one-pill-a-day regimen only works for a portion of our patients. The issues of side effects and accelerated aging make HIV very complicated to live with.”

To assist those infected by the virus, the ARCW offers a full range of services, including not only medical and dental treatments, but also access to a food pantry and to mental health and social service professionals, which is key since 90% of HIV patients live in poverty, and more than 50% suffer from mental illness or addiction. Much of the funding for these services comes from the ARCW’s largest fundraiser, the annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Summerfest grounds. Participants can register or pledge at aidswalkwis.org.

“This benefit makes good on a promise that everybody with HIV in Wisconsin gets access to outstanding health care, regardless of their ability to pay,” Gifford says. “Wisconsin is one of the few states in the country that has never had a waiting list for HIV care treatment, and efforts like AIDS Walk Wisconsin allow us to keep it that way.”

 

Heroes of the Week: Volunteers, Organizations Behind Westlawn Playground

On Sept. 29, KaBOOM!, Humana and the Humana Foundation, as well as the Westlawn Resident Council, the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee and more than 200 community volunteers came together to build a multi-generational playground in Milwaukee’s Westlawn neighborhood (5480 N. 67th St.). Previously, Westlawn did not have a playground of its own or any publicly accessible playgrounds nearby.

KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to saving play, seeks to help playground deserts like the Westlawn area and is partnering with Humana and the Humana Foundation to construct more than 50 multi-generational playgrounds across the United States within the next four years. Once the Housing Authority and Westlawn Resident Council were awarded the playground, a "design day" was held Aug. 8 for children to draw and share their dream playgrounds and local community members to provide input on the adult-oriented components of the site. These fantastic thoughts were incorporated into the playground, which was built in less than eight hours and measures 2,500 square feet. Mayor Tom Barrett attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We are not just building a playground, we are building a community,” says Paul Williams, communications coordinator with the Housing Authority. “This project has been a very powerful tool for building positive, lasting relationships that will make the community stronger.”

Though the playground will be maintained through a joint effort of the Westlawn residents and Housing Authority staff, monetary donations are needed to help defray the side costs of the playground build. For those who would like to donate, please contact Paul Williams at 414-224-0528 or paul.williams@hacm.org. To learn more about any of the organizations listed above or the project itself, please visit their websites at www.hacm.org, www.kaboom.org, www.humana.com, or www.humanafoundation.org.

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