Thursday, October 27, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

Caravan update # 6

Campaign To End AIDS
American Heritage Caravan Update #6
By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage Caravan rider

October 26, 2005
Rapid City, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska

This morning we arose early as today a very long ride was ahead for us. We had to be in Omaha by 5:30 p.m. to speak at a press conferance set up for our caravan.
Two of our hosts Glenda and Joan met us in the hotel parking lot bearing boxes of hot sticky buns, oatmeal, coffee, and juice. A brilliant red sun rose in the eastern sky as we began the long drive at 7:00 a.m.
In South Dakota HIV/AIDS is still hidden and those affected and in need of public services must tread a dangerous path to stay alive. At last evening's meet, eat, and greet in a city park only one individual stepped forward as being openly HIV positive. When we circled and each participant told of their experiences around HIV/AIDS, all had personal stories of family and friends lost to this pandemic. I remember Amy who ten years back lost her 26 year old son. We do not forget these loved ones of ours lost to this battle, their memories walk with us, their loss leaves only tears and a hope to end this pandemic, a goal we have every right to expect to win.
This battle will be won by the strength and courage of individuals such as had by another of our Rapid City hosts, Joan Goschke. At times nearly single-handedly through her organization Positive Approach she works to meet all of the diverse needs for the many in this area affected by HIV/AIDS. Joan is also a hospice nurse, and is caring for her own daughter who is dieing of cancer, a diagnosis she got within months of returning from China where she'd adopted a daughter. Armed with a determined, soft-spoken compassion, Joan's goal is to find homes for the 20 million orphans of AIDS in Africa alone. From a hand-out written by her grouo Positive Approach : " We see a gloomy future for these children. Al Qaeda is in Africa and would probably like to recruit children to become human missiles. What an incubator for terrorism. More important, these are children growing up in the streets. A teen-ager becomes head of the family if there are no grandparents available. Extended families are over extended and already impoverished."
Joan's message is one of many that we will take with us to Washington, D.C.
As this day's long journey progressed we passed from the Black Hills to grassland then the badlands, the plateus slimming down to the vastness of the Great Plains.
Our bus drove into Omaha about sunset, where we recieved a warm greeting from our Omaha hosts at the Nebraska AIDS Project. 1,200 Nebraskans are believed to be living with HIV/AIDS, as many as who have already died here. This past year the Nebraska AIDS Project seviced 822 clients.
Founded 21 years ago, Nebraska AIDS Project is among the oldest AIDS service agencies in the country and operates five offices throughout the the state, serving Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. It is a nonprofit organization providing social services and support for men, women, and children affected by HIV/AIDS, along with educational programs to reduce the transmission of HIV.
Nebraska AIDS Project remains true to it's stated mission of prevention of HIV and providing support to those who's lives are affected by HIV/AIDS. One of the few statewide AIDS service organizations in the country, Nebraska AIDS Project is the only community based HIV/AIDS service organization in Nebraska. And community is exactly what we found here when this evening at the NAP center we met many clients and their friends who have worked tirelessly to provide education, prevention imformation, testing, counseling, and client services to anyone in Nebraska impacted by HIV/AIDS.
All this aside, people still slip through the cracks of an imperfect system in an imperfect world. Donald Magnuson (whole name used at his own request) expressed frustration in his quest for medical treatment.
Donald was first diagnosed with HIV in '96. He has just this month been diagnosed with AIDS. On top of this he has had hepatitis C for over 15 years. Donald tells us that he has tried hard to get on 'the cocktail' for years now. But he keeps hitting brick walls. Donald believes that the problem is two fold.
The first problem is that of money...the money to pay for his scrips and overall care just isn't out there and on his $800 a month he certainly can't afford it. (Donald does get insurance at a cost of $78 per month, but that's only hospital coverage-not scrips or doctor's visits).
The second part is a very difficult hurdle indeed. He's functionally illiterate. Donald says that he requires much more intensive help from his case managers than he can typically get. When they help him to access resources he isn't always able to get the follow through that he needs.
To be fair, he says, the casemanagers do what they can, but they are not always able to do as much as he needs in his own case.
His social worker, Harry, at the university hospital shall be retiring next month. "(Harry ) helped me get Boost for protein. He just helped me to apply for Title XIX." Title XIX is a program to help him to get his lifesaving medications. With Harry leaving, Donald worries that he shall slip through the cracks once again. "I've been through Hell all of my life," says Donald. "I would like to be on medicine but I'll probably never get it."
This is a statement fom Galen, a Nebraska AIDS Project client that was published in a NAP fact sheet:
"Moving back to Nebraska in 1995 when the doctors predicted my imminent death, leaving my job and my friends behind was a very lonely, scary time in my life. I left my comfortable, safe niche in life to face repeated hospitalizations, fear, prejudice, ignorance and anger from a lot of people I came in contact with.
My salvation was my family and this quiet, pretty lady who came into my life one day saying she was from Nebraska AIDS Project. She was my Caseworker, I was told, but more importantly, she became my friend. With her support and care, my life started turning around. I was better able to receive the kind of care and respect I deserved. I made friends again through the support group in our area. She helped me become involved with Mebraska AIDS Project and with the State on various committees. I found a purpose for my life again, especially doing volunteer speaking around the state. She and her contacts made me feel worthwhile again.
Today I have someone special in my life. I have the will to start a business and dreams of a future. So thanks, Barb, for being there. Thanks for the wonderful people you have brought into my life. Thanks for my life."
-Galen, diagnosed in 1985, Central Nebraska

To learn more about the Nebraska AIDS Project, log onto:

To learn more about the Campaign To End AIDS and the American Heritage caravan,and how to help and donate the funds needed to keep this caravan rolling, or to access the other blogs in this series, log onto:


At 1:19 AM, Blogger Barry G. Wick said...

Your welcome to South Dakota by some of the locals who'd rather wear sheets and fly rebel flags was appropriate. Yeah, we deal with these folk all the time. I've been writing letters to the editor for years and the love letters I get from some of them are preserved in my files. Here's wishing you much love and success from The Mountain Queen.


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