By Melanie Davis, PQ Monthly
Thirty years ago Rock Hudson died of AIDS. The passing of this famous person helped increases public awareness of the disease considerably. However, our world was not prepared for the tsunami of souls this epidemic would, and sadly continue to claim. However, many organizers in the early 80’s sensed what was ahead and in Oregon started two main organizations that provided HIV-related services to the Portland area community. CHESS (Community Health and Essential Support Services), who provided one-on-one emotional support, and Cascade AIDS Project (CAP), who provided education to gay/bisexual men. Their merger in 1983 consolidated HIV-related services and prevented competition for very limited resources thereby strengthening its organizational impact in the midst of this epidemic.
12,529 people died from AIDS along with Rock Hudson in 1985 and there were 15,527 reported cases that same year. That was the year CAP was legally incorporated and like most startups, it was a barebones operation, consisting of an executive director and a PAL (Personal Active Listener) program coordinator. These two staff members were assisted by volunteers and a 21-member volunteer board of directors. The total agency budget was less than $100,000. Brown MacDonald was the Executive Director of the organization during this time.
Flash forward 30 years to present day and 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection. Cascade AIDS Project is now the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education, and advocacy in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Now with an annual budget of almost $6 million and nearly $5.6 million going into critical programs like prevention, education, housing, and support.
If you have every asked yourself what does Cascade AIDS Project do in a year, here is your answer:
- 3,543 HIV testing and counseling sessions have been provided.
- 556 syphilis tests administered by CAP.
- 3,510 youth engaged in educational conversations about healthy sexuality.
- 71 Speakers Bureau presentations educated 2,804 people and raised awareness of HIV/AIDS.
- 863 calls and 7,202 online visitors sought information through the Oregon HIV/STD Hotline.
- 4,625 gay and bisexual men—a third of whom were people of color—visited Pivot for 130 social and 113 educational events.
- $1,177,808 went directly to 804 individual households for rent, utilities, and emergency assistance.
- 2,292 people received some type of support services, including housing, employment counseling, referrals, and continuing education.
- 60 people living with HIV took part in three events and monthly educational outreach for Positive Force, a group by and for HIV positive people.
- 115 people received employment counseling and assistance through Working Choices, 37 of whom got jobs.
- 37 Latinos and African Americans with significant needs took part in the Minority AIDS Initiative, 96% of whom CAP engaged in medical care.
- 103 at-risk people living with HIV received navigation services to help them access and manage care from CareLink or related programs.
- HIV-impacted families, including 110 adults and 71 children, took part in our educational, supportive, and community-building Kids Connection programs. 43 children attended Camp KC, a weeklong sleepaway camp at the Oregon Coast.
And at the helm organization is Executive Director Tyler TerMeer the next generation visionary for CAP. He is the ninth person to serve as ED for this non-profit since its inception some thirty years ago and took the role on July 16th, 2016. We first wrote about in PQ Monthly’s May 2014 Edition. Just sweet sixteen months later, and Mr. TerMeer had settled in Portland with his loving fiancé Tim Montgomery and the active role the ED plays in the community of the Northwest.
Upon arrival TerMeer immediately began engaging with the community, and expanding Cascade AIDS Projects organizational reach or impact into communities that are disproportionately affected by HIV. In doing so, he noted the next essential step would be to launch a Health Equity Initiative. In doing that CAP has also initiated a mini-grant project targeting underserved populations that may not qualify for federal funding, he says. Some of these grants have helped improve testing in the African American communities of faith and added a Latino lifeline program. Cascade AIDS Project has also partnered with the sex workers coalition and help provide much-needed resources like home HIV test kits, and hygiene kits.
TerMeer has also been highly focused on increasing the organizational capacity of CAP, and re-evaluating where the agency stands in light of the changing funding landscape. When asked about this TerMeer said, “People who are HIV positive are living long healthy lives now, so we are having to address the rapidly changing health concerns with the HIV positive aging population, diverse communities, and youth.”
“In looking over the next 30 years, it means we greatly need to expand our donor community because federal funding for HIV/AIDS is continuing to diminish, and the diverse needs of our community continue to grow rapidly. Cascade AIDS Project is ready to evolve with both a strategic and business plan in place, we affirm that as we broaden and diversify the health services provided by CAP, we stay true to serving the needs of the Queer community of Oregon and SW Washington.” Added TerMeer.
TerMeer and his team at CAP have also completed a community survey basically asking if an LGBTQ specific medical clinic is needed. Immediately they learned based on the study, that because of the unique health needs of the LGBTQ community all signs point to yes, and a strong yes at that. Which means no big announcement at this time from TerMeer about CAP. However, he does says that they are already testing the idea with their business mentors, donor base, and community partners. In conclusion, it’s fair to say that both Tyler TerMeer and Cascade ADIS Project are ready, and gearing up for what seems to be and equally incredible 2016, and have set in place the systems to ensure another successful 30 years.
CAP is one of the oldest and largest organizations of its kind in the nation and leads the fight in stopping the spread of HIV. CAP leadership is well-respected and represents the diversity of the community we serve. To make a tax-deductible donation to this 501-c-3 non-profit organization, please Click Here.