January/February 2014

ARCW Helps Construct Wisconsin's Plan to Fight Heroin Overdoses

National Drug Czar Praises Effort

As heroin overdose deaths continue to impact families across the state, ARCW has been invited to play a leading role in determining how public health agencies, community-based organizations, first responders, law enforcement and  the courts will work together to reduce opiate overdose deaths.

Late last year, Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) asked ARCW to provide important insight into its opiate overdose prevention program as he was writing legislation to confront the explosion of opiate and heroin-related overdose deaths in Wisconsin. Representative Nygren incorporated ARCW's priority needs into writing four bills named the Heroin and Opiate Prevention and Education – or HOPE package.

Since 2005, ARCW has been leading Wisconsin's response to the worsening heroin and opiate epidemic. ARCW has provided training to injection drug users on how to use a remarkable drug  - naloxone  - through the ARCW Lifepoint Needle Exchange program.  Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can save the life of an individual experiencing an overdose by immediately counteracting the ability of the opiate to shut down the central nervous system. Since the program began, ARCW has trained more than 2,500 injection drug users to use naloxone safely and more than 2,100 of them have indicated they used the naloxone and training provided by ARCW to save the life of someone from an overdose.

“Our HIV and opiate overdose prevention programs are smart, evidenced-based interventions that are reaching difficult to reach individuals,” said Mike Gifford, ARCW President and Chief Executive Officer. “The HOPE legislation will strengthen our programs and enable us to continue to save lives across Wisconsin. We thank Representative Nygren’s for his tremendous leadership as Wisconsin tackles the heroin epidemic.” 

“ARCW was proud to work closely with Representative Nygren in developing this legislation and is actively advocating for it to become state law,” said Bill Keeton, ARCW Vice President for Government and Public Relations.  “These proposals will make sure naloxone is widely available, remove barriers that cause reluctance in activating emergency medical services by people witnessing an overdose, and help reduce the diversion of opiate-based prescription medications. Simply stated, these bills will save lives.”

“Our HIV and opiate prevention programs are grounded in the belief there is value in all life and that everyone is worth saving,” said Scott Stokes, director of prevention at ARCW. “For someone battling addiction, every new day presents an opportunity to get the help they need and take back their life.”

On January 14, 2014, the Wisconsin State Assembly unanimously passed the HOPE package. The bills also received a public hearing in the Wisconsin State Senate on January 29, clearing one of the last hurdles necessary before a vote in that chamber which could come in the upcoming weeks.  Once the bills are passed by both the state Senate and Assembly they head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

White House Takes Notice

Soon after the passage of the HOPE package in the Assembly, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration issued a statement praising the bills.

“Drug overdoses are preventable, and when it comes to saving lives, naloxone is an extremely valuable tool. I commend Representative Nygren and other elected officials in Wisconsin for supporting legislation that will protect public health and safety,” Kerlikowske said. “Equipping law enforcement and other emergency responders with this overdose-reversal drug will save lives and also help guide many more people suffering from substance use disorders into treatment and long-term recovery.  Increasing access to naloxone goes hand in hand with other evidence-based ways to reduce the threat of heroin and prescription drug abuse in our communities.”

Just as in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, public policy advocacy remains critical to the success of ARCW. Philanthropic donations remain the sole source of revenue to support public policy advocacy at the local, state and federal levels of government by ARCW.

A brief description of the four bills is available here.

To learn more about ARCW’s political policy advocacy, click here.

Otto Bremer Foundation Awards Major Grant to ARCW

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Otto Bremer Foundation is rooted in and committed to the communities where Bremer Banks are located.  With assets exceeding $876 million, the Foundation is able to impact nearly 80 communities throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin, providing philanthropic funding that addresses specific civic and social needs.  A strong ally in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the Foundation has awarded grant funding to ARCW for the past nineteen years, the result of which is strong HIV prevention programming and a broad array of HIV-related services for every patient in need of care in western Wisconsin.

“ARCW is the predominant provider of services to those with or at risk of contracting HIV in western Wisconsin, and we are pleased to continue supporting their efforts,” said Charlotte Johnson, a trustee of the Otto Bremer Foundation. “We hope that our investment assists ARCW in leveraging other resources to continue its important work in Superior, Eau Claire and La Crosse.”  The Foundation’s recent grant of $100,000, payable over two years, will help provide care and treatment that includes medical referrals, behavioral health care, social work case management, food pantry support, legal services, prevention services and pharmacy services for clients seen at the ARCW Superior, Eau Claire and La Crosse offices.

“ARCW is deeply grateful to the Otto Bremer Foundation for its tremendous friendship and support,” says Mike Gifford, President and CEO of ARCW. “This Foundation truly understands the value that ARCW brings to the community and remains one of our strongest allies in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”  The Otto Bremer Foundation has invested $370,000 in ARCW work in western Wisconsin since 1994.

Save the Date for Make A Promise 2014!

Vive Le Promise set for Saturday, April 26

Mark your calendars for the 28th Annual Make A Promise Gala, to be held Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Wisconsin Center District in downtown Milwaukee.

Set against a backdrop of elegance this year’s theme, Vive le Promise, merges with the celebration of the passion for the fight against HIV with the spirit of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Milwaukee’s most colorful silent auction returns to Make A Promise. Bid on art or that magnum bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, vacation opportunities and more. All proceeds benefit the care and treatment programs of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

“After surveying our guests to Make A Promise, we are returning to the convention center downtown, which will give our record-breaking crowds better guest comfort,” said Mary Hartwig, ARCW Director of Special Events. “This event is going to be spectacular and may even sell out, so it will be important to get your table reservation in quickly.”

Make A Promise gets its name from a group of gay men who were concerned about the AIDS epidemic. They held a dinner party in a home to raise money for AIDS and at the end of the night made the promise to do it again next year and the year after until a cure was found. One thousand people are expected to attend this year’s event. “Make A Promise has generated more than $2.8 million to benefit patients of the ARCW Medical Center,” said Dan Mueller, ARCW Chief Development Officer. “This 28th annual event will be the one that takes us over the $3 million mark in funds raised, a tremendous achievement for Wisconsin,” he said.

Invitations will be mailed soon. In the meantime, watch your mailbox for exciting announcements – Vive le Promise!

Visit our Facebook page to view scenes from last year’s event.

ARCW Honors Red Ribbon Patrons at Luncheon

HIV-Positive Journalist, Marine gives Keynote

On Thursday, January 23rd, the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin recognized and thanked  its Red Ribbon Patrons at a luncheon held in their honor at Milwaukee’s Grain Exchange. Red Ribbon Patrons are individuals and organizations who have donated $10,000 or more over the years to support the mission of ARCW. These donors form a community of 350 ARCW donors whose names are engraved on the Red Ribbon Patron Wall of Honor, a permanent display of our leading philanthropic supporters at the headquarter facility of ARCW in downtown Milwaukee.

One hundred donors gathered for Thursday’s luncheon and heard a keynote speech by Oriol Gutierrez, Editor-in-Chief, POZ Magazine and poz.com, a national, award-winning magazine and website for people living with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS. Gutierrez was diagnosed with HIV while he served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1992. He shared his personal story of not only overcoming stigma associated with the disease, but also about becoming an editor of a national publication that leads the national conversation about HIV/AIDS. “It’s up to those of us who can be open to speak for those who cannot,” he said.

“Here are some basic truths for why the fight against HIV/AIDS remains as vital as ever: AIDS-related deaths are mercifully not what they used to be, but three decades after the AIDS crisis emerged new HIV cases in the United States remain at about 50,000 each year and HIV rates are increasing for all gay and bisexual men, especially among young gay and bisexual men of color,” said Gutierrez.

“Organizations such as ARCW are on the front lines of this fight. Early in my HIV journey, I was fortunate to get my health care at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City. The center kept me engaged in my health care. ARCW does the same work,” he said. “I don’t believe that it’s an overstatement to say that our collective success against HIV/AIDS depends in large part on how effective such groups as ARCW, Callen-Lorde and many others across the country are at seizing the opportunities I mentioned.”

To tune into the ARCW YouTube Chanel to see a video of the program or to view the ARCW Thank You video to our donors click on the links below:

2014 Red Ribbon Patron Luncheon – Program

2014 Red Ribbon Patron Luncheon – Thank You!

To read Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James Causey’s column on Gutierrez’s speech click here.

A Jolly Holly Hit!

18th annual Jolly Holly Folly sells out at the Marcus Center, sets record

Hearts were festive and generous on November 26, 2013 as Jolly Holly Folly, the winter fundraiser of ARCW, raised more than $56,000 to support health care and services for people living with HIV. Held for the first time at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, guests enjoyed culinary delights from 26 of Milwaukee’s favorite restaurants, followed by a performance of the Broadway smash hit IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS.

“What a unique opportunity to be hosted by the Marcus Center for our 18th annual event,” said Chief Development Officer and Vice President Dan Mueller. “The cooperation of Broadway and the generosity shown by the Marcus Center, our sponsors, restaurants and guests, made for a truly special and successful evening in the fight against AIDS.”

Guests raved about the Broadway performance and participating restaurants which included: Bella Caffe, Blue’s Egg, Bosley on Brady, Cempazuchi, Classy Girl Cupcakes, Cubanitas, Divino Wine and Dine, Eat Cake, HOM, Indulge, Juniper 61, La Perla, LuLu, Maxie’s, Metro, Mia Famiglia, Purple Door Ice Cream, Riverfront Pizzeria, Rumpus Room, RuYi, Sazama’s, the Soup Market, Transfer Pizza, Umami Moto and Via Downer. “We encourage our allies to frequent these restaurants, because they contribute to the fight against AIDS,” said Mueller.

A special thank you to Jolly Holly Folly sponsors MillerCoors, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Miller-St. Nazianz, Avita Drugs Pharmacy, the ARCW Pharmacy and Graphicolor, for making the evening possible.

Mark Your Calendars

For information on any of these activities, please call 414-225-1570.

Saturday, February 1, 2014 - ARCW Junior Board SUPERBOWL bowling party, JBs on 41 (Milwaukee)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - The Remedy (La Crosse)

Saturday, April 26, 2014 - Make A Promise (Milwaukee)

Sunday, October 12, 2014 - 25th Anniversary AIDS Walk Wisconsin & 5K Run 25th, Milwaukee Summerfest Grounds