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HIV/AIDS Education Through Food and Community Collaboration

Posted by on November 13th, 2017 Posted in: Blog

The last place I would have expected to provide educational HIV/AIDS information would be a restaurant. But June’s HIV+Eatery is doing a great job getting the word out that HIV/AIDS cannot be spread through food.

It all started with a survey by Casey House, asking how comfortable Canadians would be eating food prepared by someone who is HIV positive. Surprisingly, 50% of survey respondents stated that they would not knowingly eat a meal prepared by someone with HIV. That’s when the CEO of Casey House, Joanne Simons knew “a conversation across the dinner table where you share love and compassion while eating a meal…” was needed to address the lingering stigma that HIV/AIDS still has despite the decline in HIV/AIDS in Canada over the last 7 years.

This restaurant, which is really a food “Pop-up” (a current, popular trend for restaurants to open temporarily) was open for just 2 days earlier in November, and served 200 customers who bought reserved tickets costing $98 each. The praise received from the delicious menu offerings like Thai potato leak soup and gingerbread tiramisu have got the organization thinking about future venues like New York, San Francisco and London where they can showcase their culinary skills, as well as their clever marketing communication.  June’s has received lots of positive media attention using the #SMASHSTIGMA hashtag and the restaurant’s striking red aprons that don memorable and catchy phrases like “Judge the cooking, not the cook”, “I got HIV from Pasta, said no one ever” and “Break bread. Smash stigma.” People are talking and Casey House has accomplished what it set out to do, provide an opening for communication about the misperceptions some still have when they think about eating food prepared by those with HIV/AIDS. Putting the questions many are thinking about, out there. Questions like, “What if the chef cuts his finger?” and “Can you get HIV through saliva or sweat?”, and  honestly addressing the apprehensions while cooking and serving delicious food is how they are “Smashing the Stigma” one bite at a time!

Another recent development also related to HIV/AIDS is happening in our own backyard at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  The National Library of Medicine awarded $50,000 in funding for the UMMS grant “Bringing HIV/AIDS Information to the Heart of a Community. “The Lamar Soutter Library blog just posted the description of this exciting project and community collaboration.

The University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) Lamar Soutter Library is excited about the launch of the AIDS Community Outreach Project, “Bringing HIV/AIDS Information to the Heart of the Commonwealth”. The project is a collaboration between the Lamar Soutter Library, AIDS Project Worcester (APW), and Worcester Public Library (WPL). The outreach project aims to improve the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS in Worcester and surrounding communities by increasing their knowledge of the disease through awareness and utilization of National Library of Medicine (NLM) HIV/AIDS resources through training, information outreach, and resource development. NLM resources include AIDSinfo, AIDSource, ClinicalTrials.gov, MedlinePlus, PubMed, and Public Health Partners.

The project includes building a training room at AIDS Project Worcester, train-the-trainer sessions conducted by the Lamar Soutter Library for AIDS Project Worcester and Worcester Public Library staff and volunteers, who will then provide training sessions as part of their outreach efforts. AIDS Project Worcester staff will train UMMS and Worcester Public Library staff on PrEP Navigator procedures in Central Massachusetts, then UMMS staff will train the partners on specific PrEP Navigator resources available through the NLM. Updates are planned to the AIDS Project Worcester website through a collaboration between project consultants and AIDS Project Worcester. The project also includes usability testing to better understand how APW staff, volunteers, clients, and the public use the website, along with a coordinated social media campaign to promote NLM resources and the services available from the project partners. In addition, Worcester Public Library will expand their collection of print and audio-visual resources to increase the quality and quantity of HIV/AIDS resources available to consumers in the Worcester area.

The “Bringing HIV/AIDS Information to the Heart of the Commonwealth” project improves the visibility of the services available from the collaborators and highlights the resources available to those living with HIV/AIDS, their families, caregivers, and at-risk populations in the Worcester area. The collaborators are very enthusiastic about the potential of helping clients and patrons get reliable HIV/AIDS information and the opportunity for them to learn computer and Internet searching skills, empowering both health care professionals and their patients. We are looking forward to the evaluation aspects of the project to hopefully support the successes of the project and provide lessons on areas for improvement in the future.

The National Library of Medicine has a AIDS Community Information Outreach Projects portal  that provides information about HIVAIDS funding opportunities, currently funded and projects previously funded by NLM.

AIDSOURCE is NLM’s mobile one source for HIV/AIDS information.

Image of the author ABOUT Susan Halpin
I am a former health and wellness educator who joined the NNLM NER in August of 2016, Excited to be promoting the excellent resources developed by the NLM and to provide training for anyone who would like to access the free and trusted information the NLM offers.

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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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