May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while every individual could benefit from mental health resources, individuals living in poverty while dealing with serious illness are at the greatest disadvantage. Even greater challenges are faced by people who are unhoused.
Since Lifelong was founded, volunteers have been an integral part of our community. Not only do staff members rely on them, but so do our clients. With a staff of about 130 and an active volunteer pool of about 1,900, our volunteers are crucial in supporting us to have a bigger reach in the community.
Imagine trying to sleep every night without a roof over your head to shelter you from the rain and being unable to lock a door to keep you safe. This is a reality for thousands of people living within King County. As of January 2018, there were 12,112 individuals that were experiencing homelessness within King County. Although this number is appalling, the real shock was that this was the first year that the majority of people experiencing homelessness were unsheltered.
World AIDS Day is an annual campaign on December 1 to raise awareness and tribute to people affected by and living with HIV. As an organization that was founded in 1983, in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and built on the passionate and dedicated community that came together to care for people living with HIV when no one else would, we wanted to highlight the community that is #StillHere.
When I first came to Lifelong, it had been about 8 years since I was diagnosed with HIV. I hadn’t thought I would make it to the year 2000, and while I survived, I was self-employed and soon I was underemployed. It was a struggle to afford the health insurance and medication I needed to make my life possible. That’s when I knew I couldn’t do this on my own.
October is LGBT History Month, a time to remember how far the LGBT community has come. To commemorate our greater Seattle LGBTQ community, we are sharing a past client’s story. David Wood, who was born in Alabama but later moved to Seattle, used our Chicken Soup Brigade program during the AIDS epidemic. David was diagnosed with HIV in October of 1988 – 30 years ago this month.
September is Sexual Health Month, and we at Lifelong have always taken pride in our efforts to promote a spectrum of sexual health needs: whether that is teaching sex education to the LGBTQ community, handing out information and resources for safe sex – which includes PrEP, or helping people with HIV obtain healthy relationships and sex lives. Our Prevention Team works extremely hard to reach as many people in the community as they can to promote an optimal sexual health for every individual.
Twenty-five years ago, a group of students came together from Newport High School and started a club, which later transformed into an elective course, to educate their peers about AIDS. These students were affected by the HIV epidemic and were passionate about doing something innovative for their community. This group became known as ASPEN (AIDS Student Peer Educators at Newport). In addition to this being ASPEN’s 25th year as a group, it is also ASPEN’s 25th year participating in the Seattle AIDS Walk.