Over the year of my performing and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, I have come across some wonderful people who have been such a huge support to all I do. I have been able to make some lasting friendships with those folks along the way, and the more I get to know them I find out that they are doing the same thing where they live! Timothy Price is the example of that.
I met Timothy while in New Orleans for Southern Decadence, and he and his husband have been huge supporters of the work I do in the community. But Timothy, himself, is doing the work——and in Fort Wayne, Indiana! We see so much coverage of the bigger cities along the East and West coasts and I am thrilled to introduce y’all to an amazing man, my dear friend, Mr. Timothy Price with Positive Resource Connection.
Candy Samples: Hey Tim! How long have you been at Positive Resource Connection?
Timothy Price: I have been at PRC since 2012. I had a friend who saw the advertisement for the job opening in the paper. All of the specific qualifications they were looking for fit me to a T.
Were you working in the field before?
I volunteered with a local ASO doing “HIV Buddy” work in the late eighties and early nineties. We would help out with daily tasks for a person with an AIDS diagnosis——shopping, light house cleaning, cooking, just hanging out and talking.
The Buddy programs! Yes! You know, those are coming back into play across the country. In New York City our friends at GMHC have brought their Buddy program back, with a new focus on helping our aging brothers and sisters. Do you see a Buddy program re-emerging in Indiana?
I had not thought of that before. I think it’s a great idea. There really is a lack of elder care in our community and this is a good start.
One day we’re all gonna be there——the “new” Golden Girls! Can you briefly tell us about the services that PRC provides for the communities surrounding Fort Wayne, Indiana?
We provide non-medical case management for people living with HIV. We have psycho-social support groups, counseling, food pantries, linkage to medical care, housing assistance to name a few.
We also provide HIV/STD prevention education in the twelve surrounding counties of northeastern Indiana. We provide free HIV and HCV testing and distribute free condoms and lube.
My portion of the Outreach and Prevention division (Biomedical Prevention) provides PrEP navigation and financial assistance. We educate about PrEP and help people to get on and stay on PrEP——testing, appointment reminders, connection to providers, connection to financial assistance. Most of our PrEP users are able to stay on PrEP with no cost out of pocket due to generous funding from the Indiana State Department of Health who cover lab and doctor costs for both insured and uninsured people. Gilead has various assistance programs that help with medicine costs.
I remember when I first met you we were talking about this new thing called PrEP, and then when we were vacationing in New Orleans that next summer I confided in you that I had just started PrEP. I remember that not too many years ago it was a taboo subject and I wasn’t even talking about it much. Have you found that over the years people are coming out more asking for PrEP? Did you find in your outreach that there was hesitation from people to embrace PrEP?
Yes, things have indeed changed a great deal. I remember the first time I provided PrEP information at a Pride Event. I got a lot of people who ignored it and a few that tried to tell me I was wrong or irresponsible for telling people about it. They held onto the idea that condoms were the only valid way to reduce HIV risk. Now, in the same setting, instead I have people setting up appointments to get started on PrEP. It’s a huge difference.
Now there seems to be two main barriers for advancing PrEP use. First, that many people believe that it is unaffordable, so they never inquire. And second, some people think that it is a dangerous drug that causes terrible side effects. Those fear-mongering advertisements on Facebook are really doing damage.
I spend a lot of my time explaining that Truvada is not dangerous [in the ways they might be imagining] and the side effects are pretty rare. Not to mention that Descovy is now available for PrEP if the person is truly worried about side effects. [Descovy, which contains TAF, does improve upon adverse clinical outcomes related to kidney function and bone density that have been seen in some users of Truvada, which contains TDF.]
As to affordability, here in Indiana, we’re able to get most people on PrEP with no cost out of pocket.
This is wonderful! Go Indiana! You are also a man of many hats—— and when I first met you I knew you as a minister. What church are you involved with and how many years have you been preaching?
I am a part-time minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC). I pastor a small Open and Affirming UCC congregation in a very small town in rural Indiana. I have been in pulpit ministry for about 32 years now.
Thirty-two years of ministry! Yaaas! What led you to the ministry?
I felt a calling to service to people from early on. After high school I went to seminary and began that journey of faith and education that led to pulpit ministry.
With your ministry background, do you find that it helps you in your work at PRC as Biomedical Prevention Coordinator?
I think that my ministry background does have an impact on how I do my work at PRC. It’s not just a job for me, it’s a way of ministering care, compassion, and love to the people I meet at PRC. My desire for justice and to help people definitely colours all that I do at PRC.
PRC has been around for over thirty years and has grown from (then) AIDS Task Force to the PRC we see today——with a great social media platform, I may add, as I’m a fan! What kinds of things have you seen over the years that have helped the organization thrive?
The people who work at PRC and who volunteer in our work at PRC have a real heart for helping people and making a difference. We have a leadership who sees a plan for the future for reducing infection and eliminating stigma around HIV and STDs.
Like many other organizations such as ours, we have grown, transformed from a primarily hospice organization to an agency that helps people to find a positive vision for their own future. Our willingness to embrace science and medical advances with the compassion of truly caring people has opened up new and exciting paths to fulfill our mission of “preventing new cases of HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis and STDs and advancing a compassionate and stigma-free community response.”
I think it’s so important for service organizations all over the country to have that vision of the future. Y’all are doing the work——no longer a hospice organization but one that enriches and helps people thrive. It really is an exciting time. One last thing, and I just have to give y’all a shout out about this——PRC’s Food Pantry. You guys are getting donations in and always are giving shout outs on social media. Your pantry puts mine to shame. I’m a little jealous. But tell me, which is better——your Indiana hot-dish or my Green Bean Casserole?
Oh, your green bean casserole for sure! There’s a song about it and everything!!
I’ll come visit y’all and we’ll do a cook off taste test. How about that?
Contact Timothy Price by e-mail, [email protected] For more information about Positive Resource Connection go to www.positiveresourceconnection.org.
Candy Samples is a singer/songwriter drag artist in New York City. She has released two EPs and several singles on iTunes and is currently working on her first full-length album, Bittersweet. In her spare time, she fundraises and raises awareness for many different HIV/AIDS organizations. She is a fierce ally to the HIV/AIDS community and encourages all to use their “Powers for Good.” For more information, log on to: www.samplemycandy.com.