Supporting the Walk and Fighting Stigma

As we enter the next phase of the fight to end HIV, it’s essential that we recommit ourselves to focus on ending this disease that has affected thousands in Minnesota over the years. With the arrival of vital new tools, our renewed and urgent call to action is to forge a bold new direction with a strong coalition of community partners who are all focused on the same goal – ending HIV now.

Thank you for joining us in this fight. #WeWontStop #WeWillWin.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Hanson Willis
CEO, JustUs Health

Walk to End HIV logo

Walk to End HIV

JustUs Health will host the Minnesota Walk to End HIV presented by Delta Air Lines on Saturday, October 12, 2019 as it continues its more than 35-year mission to provide HIV education, raise awareness of the disease and provide critical supportive services to people living with HIV. With the changes in medical treatment and social awareness about HIV over the past three decades, the Minnesota AIDS Walk is changing its name to the Minnesota Walk to End HIV as a reflection of a real and attainable goal of ending HIV.

Join us in this fight to end HIV!

Supporting the Walk and Fighting Stigma

Roger Kahler-Kokosh is a long-time supporter of the Walk to End HIV, previously called the Minnesota AIDS Walk. Roger reflected on how he first became involved in the Walk, “I lost a good friend to AIDS shortly before I moved to Minnesota. Then in 1995, a colleague died from AIDS...I decided that I should do something to help those affected. So I registered, made a donation and asked a couple of friends to donate. I’ve been doing that ever since.”

Quote from Roger Kahler-Kokosh

Roger speaks to the importance of getting involved in the Walk, “There is a continuing need for the work provided by JustUs Health. The costs of HIV are borne by all of us, and no one is immune from possible infection. By getting involved we can make a difference, create awareness and raise needed funds. Even small steps such as walking can make a difference. Small steps often lead to great advances forward.”

 “While fewer people die from HIV now, the medications are costly, can cause serious interactions with other medications, and can cause other problems with one’s health.” Roger continued. “That kind of cost cannot be maintained long-term, either by the person or by our community.”

Photo of Roger Kahler-Kokosh and his partner

As a long-time Walker, Roger has some tips for folks new to the Walk to End HIV:

  1. Tell your friends, neighbors and co-workers that you are participating in the Walk to End HIV; 
  2. Talk about the reasons why you are participating, and the work JustUs Health does—the personal reasons are the most powerful; and
  3. Ask them to help, either by donating or by joining you on the Walk. It’s surprisingly easier than you think—there are many generous and interested people out there!

How Peer Support Transforms Health Outcomes

by Johan Baumeister, Peer Support Coordinator – Positive Link

When people ask me what I do, I have two choices in how I respond.  My typical response has been to rattle off my title and then detail what our program does like our weekly discussion groups or what sort of social and educational experiences I arrange for the group.  We also do our part to help keep people linked to medical care and to other resources. Our participants have significantly better than average health and wellness outcomes, with more than 95 percent achieving and maintaining viral suppression—a rate that exceeds the state average of 88 percent of those retained in medical care and 64 percent of the total population of people living with HIV. 

Lately, I’ve been responding in a different way.  When asked what I do, I now tell people that it’s my privilege as someone living with HIV to listen to the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+, MSM (Men who have Sex with Men), and Same-Gender Loving folks as they relate their own journeys with HIV. I get to be a part of their support systems as they navigate their own courses through diagnosis, disclosure of their status, medication adherence, dating, personal health, sexual health, and many other areas of life that are often altered or complicated by living with HIV.  It’s my privilege to witness their growth and self-empowerment, to facilitate and create environments and gatherings where that growth and self-empowerment can and does happen—often not just for them, but also for me as their peer.

I have had the experience of seeing a recently diagnosed person find guidance through the experiences of others and become comfortable enough that they disclosed their status to a friend for the first time. I’ve heard people share the deep wounds they have experienced as long-term survivors, losing friends year after year and facing decades of constant concerns about their own health. It is a pearl beyond price to hear their wisdom—as well as to hear the gratitude that JustUs Health offers them a place for their journeys to be heard and respected, rather than pitied and dismissed.

Our work isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Healing comes from a supportive community; the experiences we share with one another strengthen the social bonds between us. Science has proven that isolation is one of the biggest contributors to negative health outcomes, and people living with HIV face ever increasing isolation as they age. It is possible for people like me to live longer and healthier lives than ever before—but only if we continue to commit as a community to supporting one another by supporting organizations like JustUs Health.

We Need Your Help

Together, we can reach our goal of ending HIV here in Minnesota. We need your help to make this a reality. #WeWontStop #WeWillWin

You can also send your donation by mail to:
JustUs Health
2577 West Territorial Road
Saint Paul, MN 55114