Interview of Patrick Packer
In this week's post, I'm excited to share with you HIV testing stories from the Southern AIDS Living Quilt and my recent conversation with Patrick Packer, Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition. As we mentioned last week, this month leading up to National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) on June 27, we're writing the “I Know. I Took The Test” blog series about personal HIV testing stories. We hope you'll also share your story (in the comments section) about what getting an HIV test meant to you.
- What inspired you to start the Southern AIDS Living Quilt?The Southern AIDS Living Quilt was launched in October of 2008 by the Southern AIDS Coalition to raise awareness about the spread of HIV and AIDS, particularly among women in the Southern U.S. The South has the highest number of adults and adolescents living with AIDS in the U.S.. In addition, HIV/AIDS is currently the leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25 and 34. The Living Quilt uses personal stories to highlight the need for routine testing and prevention services, early diagnosis, and increased access to care for those living with HIV/AIDS in the South. A goal is to let those that are positive know that HIV today is a disease you can live with if you take steps to take care of yourself and your partner.
- Why are you using new media to share those stories?
We wanted to move beyond the numbers and data, putting a face to these figures. The video “patches” are a powerful means of reducing stigma surrounding the disease. The videos show the changing face of HIV and demonstrate the fact that anyone can contract the disease – the HIV positive faces on the Quilt could be your mother, sister, co-worker or Sunday school teacher. The goals of the Living Quilt are to empower, encourage and educate policymakers, healthcare providers, the media and the communities most directly impacted by HIV/AIDS. Using video testimonials, we share the stories of women living with HIV/AIDS, their families and healthcare providers.
- What have been a few of the most powerful results so far?The Project started (in 2008) with 30 “patches” (on a virtual quilt). Within days, we started to get emails and calls from women that wanted to share their stories and experiences. Today, the Living Quilt has more than one hundred patches from HIV-positive women, medical professionals, community leaders, HIV/AIDS Advocates, a CNN Hero, and state and government health officials. We have presented at events across the country, and last World AIDS Day, HIV journalist and advocate Allison Steinberg called the launch of the Living Quilt one of the “10 most important AIDS stories of 2008 A Los Angeles-based musician composed and donated an original hip-hop song for the Living Quilt that has been made into a video. In May we posted our 100th âpatchâ, featuring Frances Ashe-Goins, Deputy Director of HHS' Office on Women's Health.
- I Know. I Took the Test.Blog SeriesWhere would you like to see the project go next?While 100 patches was a great milestone, we want to grow the number and diversity of voices represented on the Living Quilt. We want visitors to say “she looks just like me, or my mom, sister, co-worker, or friend,” etc. We'd like to capture the stories and messages of national leaders and be a part of the national movement. We want the Living Quilt to become an even more valuable resource through linkages to educational programs, assistance, and care. And we continue to think of new ways to attract young people to the site through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites.
Thank you Patrick and the Southern AIDS Living Quilt team! The Living Quilt invites people to submit additional stories. Check out our NHTD story widget to see their videos and add it to your site! Looking for your local HIV testing center? Send a text message with your ZIP code to âKNOWITâ (566948).
Have a comment about a Southern AIDS Living Quilt story? Have you been tested for HIV and want to share what it meant to you? We welcome your comments in the comments section below.
Want to know what story initiative we're talking about next? Check back on Thursday!