Dallas-Based AIDS Arms Reaches Out to Texans in Need

AIDS ARMS File System

By Andy Smith

It may sound unusual, but BC/EFA’s grants committee finds requests for items like X-ray machines, cleaning supplies, new water heaters, and corrugated tin sheds exciting. It thrills us to fund essential bricks-and-mortar type projects, especially ones that federal funders overlook.

Dallas, TX’s AIDS ARMS, for example, used our 2008 grant ($10,000) to buy a sophisticated filing cabinet/medical records system (pictured) which helped the busy staff at the organization’s medical clinic, Peabody Health Center, manage a client list that grows by about 60 new clients each month.

“Peabody’s outdated open utility shelving system could no longer keep pace with new patients. The new system holds more records in less space, provides heightened security for confidential information, streamlines retrieving and replacing charts and can be added to as the number of patients grow,” says AIDS ARMS executive director, Raeline Nobles.

Maintaining medical records, however, is just one of an extraordinary range of services provided by this AIDS Service Organization, which has served the Dallas area for more than 20 years.

Over Two Decades of Care
Like so many organizations that originated when treatment options were limited and largely ineffective, AIDS Arms began as grassroots organization of six people committed to finding resources for individuals with HIV/AIDS who were suffering and dealing with end-of-life issues.

The organization began offering case management services to the HIV infected communities of North Texas in 1986, under the leadership of the Community Council of Greater Dallas.  In 1989, AIDS Arms became an independent nonprofit organization and in 1991, an affiliate of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

By 1999, the Agency had grown to 35 professionals and had expanded its global comprehensive case management programs for several underserved populations including, gay men, women and youth, African Americans, Hispanics and the recently incarcerated. Today, AIDS Arms has 78 full-time employees and over 500 volunteers, serving 12 counties, all backed by a budget of $6.7 million.

AIDS Arms offers an impressive range of services and programming, including:

  • HIV Education, Testing & Prevention
  • Outpatient Medical Care
  • Medication Assistance Program
  • Comprehensive Case Management and Medical Case Management (for more on this, see “Saving Sarah” below);
  • ProACT for Women, Youth and Families. A holistic approach to the HIV epidemic among women, its programming includes outreach testing and prevention work;
  • African American Outreach Program (AAOP), which also addresses the needs of recent African, Caribbean and South American immigrants, and Viva!, programming addressing HIV-impacted Latino communities, including those of undocumented workers;
  • Free World Bound (FWB), addresses the needs of HIV+ incarcerated and recently released people in 32 federal prisons throughout Texas;
  • OPTIONS addresses the needs of HIV+ clients coping with the additional challenges of substance abuse and mental health issues;
  • HIV Research. AIDS Arms Peabody Health Center is an approved AIDS Clinical Trial Group unit for the National Institutes of Health engaged in multiple studies on the HIV disease process, as well as multiple private clinical trials for emerging medications seeking FDA approval:
  • Bilingual Services. Sixteen bilingual employees, including people proficient not only in Spanish, but also European languages, African dialects and American Sign Language.

Saving Sarah
Since 1986, AIDS Arms has provided case management and support to over 15,000 clients. One of their most successful cases is “Sarah” (a client often cited in the organization’s promotional materials), a woman coping with a number of issues who transformed her life with patient, long-term assistance from AIDS Arms.

Sarah’s story is truly inspiring. At 36, she had a $1,000 a day cocaine addiction when she met her case manager in August of 2003. She was homeless and infected with hepatitis and HIV.  Despite her risk behaviors and poor health, Sarah was in denial about her HIV status.

“Her case manager painted a stark picture of her future reality if she did not commit to major changes in her life, specifically drug rehabilitation and HIV medical care,” says Nobles, who admits that, like many clients, Sarah initially resisted treatment, but her highly supportive case manager persisted until she agreed to undergo inpatient substance abuse treatment at Turtle Creek Manor, a facility that partners with AIDS Arms.

Sarah responded well to the encouragement and utilized the resources her case manager presented to her.  When she successfully completed Turtle Creek’s program, she began HIV medical treatment at AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center while her case manager arranged transitional housing to safeguard her sobriety.

Sarah remained there for two years, benefitting from onsite psychotherapy, earning her GED and developing job and basic living skills. Once Sarah found a job, her case manager found her a more relaxed yet still sober living community, while maintaining treatment at Peabody.

Today, Sarah continues to work while attending college to become a licensed substance abuse counselor.  Her goal is to help other women understand how substance abuse contributes to becoming infected with HIV. She is newly married and working towards reconciliation with her children with the continued support of her case manager.

Nobles added, that “It is the countless stories like Sarah’s that keep us all motivated to reach out and help people learn how to successfully manage the many challenges of living with HIV and AIDS.  They are the reason we are here – And the core of our mission.  Each client and family is an inspiration to us for the depth of tenacity, courage and hope they muster each day.”

“And we just couldn’t do what we do without the support of good people and organizations like Broadway Cares!”

To learn more about Dallas-based AIDS Arms, visit their website at http://www.aidsarms.org