By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
WICHITA - Positive Directions, Inc. (PDI) is gearing up for AIDS Walk 2017, scheduled for April 29. PDI is a social service agency that provides free HIV-prevention services and HIV testing and outreach education. Specific services include condom distribution, rapid HIV testing, and support group referrals.
Participants of the AIDS Walk will meet in the parking lot of The Workroom, located at 150 N. Cleveland in Wichita. Check-in is scheduled for 9am; the walk begins at 10am. The AIDS Walk is free for those who have raised more than $25. All walkers will receive a t-shirt.
Brett Hogan, executive director of PDI, says that the AIDS Walk has multiple purposes. “It is a memoriam for those that have passed from the syndrome, and an acknowledgement to those living with HIV, letting them know we are still here fighting for them,” he explains. “Also, the walk is a reminder to the community that HIV is still here, it is still prevalent and still spreading.”
Hogan says that while the syndrome is no longer the hot button issue it once was, the Wichita community will be reminded of its prevalence when they see more than 400 people walking down Douglas Street.
Funds raised through the walk will directly benefit PDI so that the organization can continue to help the community through its various services and outreach activities. For those who are interested in donating, but not necessarily walking, they can contribute funds to CrowdRise. A link to the specific CrowdRise site is at the bottom of this article.
Hogan says that in the past, PDI has been a full-service provider for those living with HIV, as well as a prevention and testing facility. The funds raised went directly back to the organization to maintain services such as the food bank, case management, outreach, and many other programs.
However, PDI recently restructured its organization to provide strictly prevention. Now, Hogan says the funds from the AIDS Walk will go directly to the outreach and education programs, which focus on the prevention and education of HIV, and direct targeting of individuals and groups, testing, and linking them to proper care in order to receive the services needed to remain healthy while living with HIV.
Other initiatives in the works include the relaunch of the Bodyguards program. “As a new Positive Directions grew into being, we needed to bring a fresh idea to it to push us into the focus again,” Hogan explains. The original program from years ago was a grassroots, face-to-face prevention and education program. Hogan says they will reintroduce the full program to the community after making a few more tweaks and ironing out details.
While PDI has always offered free HIV rapid testing, they now have the new fourth generation test, which only needs a 10-day exposure wait, compared to the third generation test, which had a 90-day exposure wait.
“This drastically cuts down on wait time, as well as if the test is reactive (positive) then the individual can get on meds quicker,” Hogan says. PDI will also soon be offering syphilis testing and HepC rapid tests. Hogan says that the organization’s condom program is still going strong and has many sites throughout Wichita.
In addition to the organizational and service changes, PDI also recently experienced a change in physical location, though not much of one. As of November of last year, the organization moved from their old address at 414 S. Commerce to an office right next door, at 416 S. Commerce, suite 108.
Hogan explains that while it is smaller than their previous office space, it fits their current more streamlined services. “A downsize, but as funding and program needs have been refocused and reduced, the larger space at the previous office was no longer needed, nor affordable,” Hogan says. “Our landlord was gracious enough to work with us to maintain a presence here in the Commerce Arts District, as we have been here for 11 + years and did not want to lose that connection to the community.”
For more information on the AIDS Walk or PDI, visit www.pdiks.com. To donate, visit: www.crowdrise.com/AidsWalk2017. l