In 1985, the Utah Department of Health reported a total of 17 persons living with AIDS in Utah. At that time, the state and most citizens were unprepared to address the HIV/AIDS issue. The need for public information and for assistance for persons living with HIV/AIDS forced a community-based response, which ultimately became the Utah AIDS Foundation (UAF).
At the Utah AIDS Foundation we offer assistance and expertise to anyone struggling with the complex issues that surround HIV, because we believe that no one should have to confront this disease alone. As we work side by side with community members, for as long as we are needed, we are committed to forming partnerships that mend health, promote compassion and extend companionship to everyone who has been affected by HIV.
The UAF began with a few volunteers and a crisis hotline. As the epidemic grew, the UAF and its corps of volunteers grew accordingly. A vigorous campaign offered information to the public along with targeted prevention efforts designed and developed for people at highest risk for HIV. At the same time, practical support and advocacy for persons living with AIDS were initiated.
The agency has grown rapidly, from offering basic support services to 17 people, to providing a full range of professional and volunteer services to hundreds of people living with AIDS throughout the state of Utah. Early education and prevention efforts reached approximately 5,000 Utahns; now more than 30,000 Utahns are reached annually with presentations featuring awareness, education and prevention. The small committed corps of volunteers has grown to a group of nearly 400 highly trained volunteers.
The past few years have seen a dramatic change in the landscape of AIDS. The good news is that today people with HIV/AIDS are coming to the Utah AIDS Foundation to live, rather than to die. We have found that the needs of our clients are changing, and so we are continually ready to modify our programming to address those changing needs. For example, in the past it was typical for clients to need extensive in-home assistance until they died. This is simply no longer the case. Today, clients may need hot meals delivered to their homes for just a few weeks, until they regain their strength and can cook for themselves again.
In any case, the two-fold approach of direct client services and targeted prevention education still comprises the basis for all UAF programming. Today the Utah AIDS Foundation offers a wide variety of programs in these two areas, ranging from transportation assistance, to holiday meal baskets, school presentations and prevention outreach at bars, dance clubs and public sex environments.