Northland Cares—Changing the Face of HIV One Person at a Time
By Vonda Chisholm
Since 2002, Northland Cares has provided services to, and advocated on behalf of, locals infected with HIV and AIDS. Founded by parents, partners, and friends of those who succumbed to the devastation of the disease in the early days, this small, nonprofit 501c3 community-based AIDS Service Organization (ASO) was born when Yavapai HIV/AIDS Action and AIDS Outreach of Northern Arizona combined.
Since it opened, Northland Cares has emerged as the leading ASO in Northern Arizona. In 2009, it became the provider of both specialized HIV Medical Care and Medical Case Management in one standalone clinic setting when it was granted the Ryan White Part B contract.
Throughout Northland Cares’ nearly 20 years of existence, care surrounding HIV has evolved. Thankfully, HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the 80s and 90s. Those who remain in care can live long, healthy lives, and with medication they can lower their viral load to where it is undetectable and therefore not transmittable.
Though new cases of HIV still arise, our goal as Northern Arizona’s #1 HIV specialty and prevention clinic is to decrease the number of new cases each year. Partnering with Arizona Department of Health Services, the Ryan White Program, and the CDC, we are successfully playing a major role in the CDC’s End the HIV Epidemic plan. Our most important task in this nationwide plan is twofold: to provide HIV testing to as many people in our community as we can so that they are aware of their status, and to educate everyone on PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). This one-pill-a-day regimen, when taken as prescribed, has a 99% success rate of preventing HIV and not nearly enough people know about it.
To educate our community about HIV/STD/Hep C prevention, and to continue to provide stellar HIV specialty care for our patients for years to come, we created and are implementing a 3-year strategic plan. Our Outreach, Education, and Prevention staff spend their time educating the public, visiting doctor’s offices, attending community events, and performing HIV testing. In addition, Northland Cares is launching at-home test kits for HIV, multiple STDs, and Hepatitis. People can request these from our website.
Our Outreach staff is also partnering with Syringe Services Programs (SSPs) so we can help prevent more infectious diseases from spreading and test people who inject drugs so they are aware of their status.
As awareness increases in our community about who Northland Cares is and the services we provide, it is our hope that those who can benefit the most from our services will reach out to us and allow us to educate them on how they can remain healthy and safe.
If you would like more information about HIV or prevention, to get a free and confidential test, or make an appointment to get on PrEP, call Northland Cares at 928.776.4612.