December 1st is World AIDS Day. It comes and goes each year and I remember how good it felt years ago to be involved in HIV/AIDS education and outreach. Today, I am proud to be certified as an HIV test counselor and to be working with UCSF AIDS Health Project. One of the reasons I moved to San Francisco in 2010 was to make a difference and work in HIV/AIDS outreach.
This morning I met with my coworkers in downtown San Francisco. We gave away around 500 little red ribbons with our cards outlining the hours for our free HIV testing. It felt really good to do this outreach - and one stranger actually came up and gave each of us a hug; telling us he was on his way to the Grove to spend some time remembering those he had lost to AIDS.
Years ago I did outreach like this; participating in AIDS walks, passing out condoms and participating in performances focused on HIV education. Today connected that past with the present and it feels really good. I found this newspaper clipping from 1991 from when I participated in the 4th annual Walk For Life in downtown Phoenix. If you look at the clipping date (1991) and follow the building in the photo down to the participants, you'll see a young Kyle (with a head full of dark hair!) carrying the end of a banner!
During my high school years, I was involved in the Positive Force Players; a teen peer education theater troupe sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona. We spent the summer learning about around 20 different issues affecting teens: drinking and driving, suicide, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, date rape and prejudice to name a few. After we learned from experts in each field as well as from those who had first-hand experience of whatever topic we were studying, we got in groups and, using our own stories, began to develop skits.
Those skits were revised and developed into scenes that we performed for schools, youth groups, community organizations and conferences. We performed all over Arizona and, in my senior year, I believe I was in over 100 different shows. We worked to make a difference as kids; doing our best to share education and be available to those who might have questions.
We created a longer show called "It's About Time" focusing on HIV/AIDS - and featuring the stories of three different characters. The photo above is from one of the performances of that show, and shows our version of the NAMES Project quilt. The performances allowed us to work as a group to make a difference, and many of the friendships we cultivated during those years are going strong all these years later.
Back then, I knew that helping to raise awareness about social issues was important to me. I did my best to learn what I could and took advantage of each opportunity that came my way, including the chance to receive a panel into the Names Project AIDS Quilt when it was on display in Phoenix, AZ. These memories are what led me to the work I do today and are what seeded my love of HIV/AIDS outreach and education.
I ran the 2010 Los Angeles Marathon with the National AIDS Marathon Training Program and, with the help of my friends and family (and YOU), raised over $4,500.00 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. That took about 6 months of training and a lot of mental effort to accomplish but once I crossed that finish line I realized we really CAN do anything we want if we want it bad enough! OK - time to talk a little about knitting...
In preparation for World AIDS Day, I knit my CAUSE hat in red and dark gray to wear during our outreach. People asked to have/purchase/comission one of these hats so I decided to raffle this hat to raise money for AIDS Health Project. Those who work there have the opportunity to make a donation and from those donations we will draw a name. That person will win the hat while we gather some money for a worthy cause.
As you probably know, I have 2 knitting patterns that are connected to HIV/AIDS awareness. CURE is a hat featuring a "virus" on it and one red ribbon - and the proceeds from that hat go to Project Open Hand. They are an amazing group that helps to feed folks living with HIV/AIDS, Breast Cancer and the elderly. CAUSE is a hat encirled with ribbons and was designed to raise awareness about Breast Cancer. Changing the color of the ribbons changes the focus of the project. Proceeds from this pattern benefit Living Beyond Breast Cancer; a nonprofit based out of Pennsylvania. The pattern is featured on their Shop to Support page.
Want to make a difference? Even something as simple as purchasing one of these patterns and knitting a hat could have an incredible impact on someone. It's just a hat... just a knitting pattern... but sometimes the smallest actions have the greatest rewards.
Interested in purchasing the CURE or CAUSE pattern? Visit the SHOP. For all you do to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and the other issues that are important to you, today is a day to reflect on how much impact even one person can have. YOU have the ability to make a difference in this world; one tiny step at a time.
Like what you're reading? Please "Like" on Facebook or "Tweet" on Twitter. Want to leave a comment on the post? I would love to hear from you!