Gives Program

HIV/AIDS Still Exists

Today December 1st is World AIDS Day.  For some, it is just another day.  For others, it is a time to remember those who have fought the battle and lost, encourage those who continue to fight and educate to end AIDS in our lifetime.  Since leaving the field of HIV/AIDS many years ago, I seem to have become complacent about what was a passion.

Living with a chronic illness has brought back many memories for me. So today, I am reflecting on the lessons I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” who stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, it is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.  I didn’t see any of the people who walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I had made many bad choices over the years.  So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart wanting to save them all.  In those early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers.  Moms and dads from their kids.  It took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  This was the world I dedicated many years of my professional life too.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people which I admire.

Fast forward to today when little is spoken about HIV/AIDS.  It is a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines to keep you going, so why worry, right?  The theme for World AIDS Day 2017 is “Now Let’s End It”

Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.  Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

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World AIDS Day is important because it reminds us and government HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

What are you willing to do to help?  Today, I remember those who fought a great fight – Jackie Wise, Matt McCrossen, Sam, Maria and all of the others who walked through the doors of my office in Bridgeton and the other SJAA offices.  I honor those who continue to fight especially Jeff, Donna and Veronica.  They continue to inspire me with their strength and determination after 26 years.

Honor someone you know who is living with HIV/AIDS or who has lost the fight.  Share their names so we too can honor them.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

 

Personal Causes

World AIDS Day

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Yes, I am a day early….Tomorrow is actually World AIDS Day but for some every day is a day living with HIV/AIDS.  The recent disclosure by Charlie Sheen about his HIV status has brought this disease to the forefront yet again.

The theme this year is “Getting to Zero” which is in tandem with UNAIDS vision of achieving “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths”.

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For me, I am reflecting on the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” that stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, that is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.

I didn’t see any of the people that walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had  made bad choices over the years.

So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart that wanted to save them all.  In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma that went with HIV/AIDS.  This was the world that I dedicated a large portion of my professional life to – a total of about 15.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people that I admire.

Fast forward to today, where little is spoken about HIV/AIDS unless a celebrity says the words.  It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines that can help to keep you going, so why worry, right?

We aren’t there yet – we are close.  There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today.  Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.

Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

Today is in honor of those who lost their fight, and those who continue to fight every day.  You blessed my life more than you will ever know.  Thank you for allowing this “crazy white chick” to be a part of your lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel, Personal Causes

World AIDS Day 2014

Today December 1st is World AIDS Day.  For some, it is just another day.  For others, it is a time to remember those who have fought the battle and lost, encourage those who continue to fight and educate to end AIDS in our lifetime.  It is exciting to think that this once deadly diagnosis could actually be ended in my lifetime.  I remember the early days of the HIV/AIDS panademic…

For me, I the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance are embedded in my mind.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” that stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, that is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.  I didn’t see any of the people that walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had  made many bad choices over the years.  So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart that wanted to save them all.  In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma that went with HIV/AIDS.  That was the world that I dedicated many years of my professional life too – a total of about 15.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people that I admire.

Fast forward to today, as little is spoken about HIV/AIDS.  It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines that can help to keep you going, so why worry, right?  The theme for World AIDS Day 2014 is ““Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”  We aren’t there yet but we are close.  There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today.  Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.  Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

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What are you willing to do to help?  Today, I remember those who fought a great fight – Jackie Wise, Matt McCrossen, Sam, Maria and all of the others who walked through the doors of my office in Bridgeton and the other SJAA offices.  I honor those who continue to fight especially Jeff, Donna and Veronica.  They continue to inspire me with their strength and determination after 23 years.

Honor someone you know who is living with HIV/AIDS or who has lost the fight.  Share their names so we too can honor them.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

#worldaidsdays, #southjerseyaidsalliance, #blessing, #cumberlandcount

 

Hope Wissel, Personal Causes, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

World AIDS Day

On this day of Relax – Reflect – Recharge, I want to take a moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart.  Today December 1st is World AIDS Day.  For some, it is just another day.  For others, it is a time to remember those who have fought the battle and lost, encourage those who continue to fight and educate to end AIDS in our lifetime.

For me, I am reflecting on the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” that stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, that is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.  I didn’t see any of the people that walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had  made many bad choices over the years.  So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart that wanted to save them all.  In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma that went with HIV/AIDS.  This was the world that I dedicated many years of my professional life too – a total of about 15.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people that I admire.

Fast forward to today, as little is spoken about HIV/AIDS.  It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines that can help to keep you going, so why worry, right?  The theme for World AIDS Day 2013 is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.”  We aren’t there yet.  There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today.  Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.  Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

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World AIDS Day Events in North Carolina – an AMAZING Quilt display.  What are you willing to do to help?  Today, I remember those who fought a great fight – Jackie Wise, Matt McCrossen, Sam, Maria and all of the others who walked through the doors of my office in Bridgeton and the other SJAA offices.  I honor those who continue to fight especially Jeff, Donna and Veronica.  They continue to inspire me with their strength and determination after 23 years.

Honor someone you know who is living with HIV/AIDS or who has lost the fight.  Share their names so we too can honor them.  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Hope Wissel, Personal Causes, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Trust and Believe

Happy Saturday!  Hopefully you have survived the unbearable heat that has embraced the Jersey Shore over the last several days.  Now, it is time to enjoy the weekend (despite the shoobies).

Lately I have been thinking about my life’s journey once I entered recovery in 1990.  I am not exactly sure why all of those memories have been flooding back except that it was a time of growth, trials, tears and a unbreakable faith in my Higher Power that everything was going to be okay.  Maybe that is the lesson for me – trust and believe!

red-ribbon1In the beginning at South Jersey AIDS Alliance, I was a volunteer looking to do community service and get on with my life.  I wasn’t looking for a job (though I was on unemployment) especially one in the non-profit world.  What I found changed my life.  The first few months with SJAA, we were working on World AIDS Day – December 1st.  I sat in the office doing anything and everything to help out.  Meeting people who arrived at our doors battered, bruised and seeking acceptance.  Their addiction and bad choices had left them with an incurable disease that would ultimately lead to their death. What I found was a caring, loving group of men and women who accepted me with all of my faults for who I was for I was blessed not to have suffered the same results of my back choices.  When a job became available in the Cumberland County office of SJAA, I was encouraged by Dave Schall (the Case Manager) to apply.  To say the least, I was not their first choice.  I mean what did I know about social work other than being a volunteer.  The Board President at the time, Bob Rougeau,  didn’t think I could handle the job – I had only been clean for about 9 months.  For those of you who know Bridgeton, Cumberland County – it is not exactly the best place to plop an addict with a little bit of clean time.  Thankfully, Matt McCrossen (a client and an HIV/AIDS advocate) along with other staff helped me secure that position.  Instead of relapsing, the could be results of my addiction were kept fresh for me – I dealt with heroin addicts, homeless, moms, kids and anyone else who walked through our doors.  The clients would come to call the little house (our office) on Irving Avenue HOPE’S HOUSE.  No it wasn’t the official title but it was a way for clients to share their HIV/AIDS status without actually saying the words.  It was a safe haven.

I know, you are wondering what yet ANOTHER personal story has to do with being successful in business, right?  The SJAA office was a safe zone for those who were struggling while my safe zone was my faith even when I didn’t know it.  A strange statement – having faith and not knowing it, right?  I trusted that my Higher Power would take care of me while I was on the rough streets of Bridgeton.  I trusted that my Higher Power would protect me when I entered a new client’s home for the first time.   I believed that anyone who truly wanted to change their bad behaviors could.

So, as life tosses me some challenges, when everything is not perfect – I need to go back to a time when I trusted in my Higher Power.  Are you struggling today with a personal or professional problem?  Do you think there is no light at the end of the tunnel?  STOP!  There is a plan for each of us regardless of your beliefs, we just have to trust and BELIEVE.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.