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Kansas City's AIDS Service Foundation takes bold steps to tackle HIV stigma

Kansas City's AIDS Service Foundation takes bold steps to tackle HIV stigma
Posted at 6:18 AM, Nov 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-30 13:47:43-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo — As the number of HIV cases continues to rise in Kansas City, a local organization is taking bold steps to raise awareness, educate the public and provide essential resources to those affected.

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The AIDS Service Foundation, a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals affected by HIV/AIDS, has been a pillar of strength for the community since it initiated.

“Our foundation funds nonprofit organizations throughout Kansas City that provide medical, behavioral health, skilled nursing services for people living with and at risk for HIV. And we also provide nonprofit community grants to 501c3s whose projects align with our mission as well," said Kimberly Carlson Board President of the organization.

But the organization has realized in recent years how urgent it is to confront the ongoing stigma and obstacles that stand in the way of the fight against HIV.

“We like to say that we raise awareness, we raise hope, and we raise funds," said Carlson "We exhibit at different events throughout the community to encourage people to get tested, spread evidence-based information about HIV and current rates of infection in different populations.”

Through community outreach programs, educational workshops and awareness campaigns, the organization is striving to change how this growing chronic disease is viewed and foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for those living with it.

“Getting the word out to communities all throughout the metro about the importance of getting tested and knowing your status because knowledge is power," said Carlson

According to data from the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department, in 2022 there were nearly 200 new cases of HIV in Kansas City, while 5,811 people are currently living with the disease. Carlson said the organization has been working closely to bring more knowledge to the community in hopes to lower these numbers.

"In 2022, the rates of black or African American people in the city, was five times the rates of new diagnoses in white individuals. And the rates of Latino new infections were three times that of white individuals," said Carlson.

We try to connect with younger people through art and we have two murals in the metro area," said Carlson "One of them in the crossroads does say that stigma is a public health crisis. It is a barrier to people getting tested. But there are actually great initiatives happening.

As the AIDS Service Foundation continues to make strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, their work serves as a beacon of hope for the community.

“In Kansas City, the HIV community is very tight-knit," said Carlson. "That is one of the best parts of it. So all these organizations make sure that we can care for people living with HIV and at risk for HIV the best that we can.”

As Dec. 1 marks World Aids Day, the organization is hosting several events around the city.

Local World Aids Day events in KC:

  • AIDS Service Foundation World AIDS Day Reception
    Thursday, November 30, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
    The Sulgrave Regency Ballroom, tickets are still available.
  • World AIDS Day Community Conversation and Breakfast
    Friday, Dec. 1, 8 - 10 a.m.
    Pierson Auditorium at UMKC, event is free and open to all.
  • City of Fountain Sisters candlelight vigil
    Friday, Dec 1, 5:30 p.m.
    JC Nichols Fountain on the plaza
  • Stray Cat Film Center presents: Everyone I Know Is Sick
    Friday, Dec 1, 7 - 9 p.m.
    Stray Cat Film Center across from Kauffman Center, admission is free.