The Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network has raised $700,000 toward eliminating HIV and AIDS in Jacksonville with a campaign called #AIDSFreeJax.
The LGBT nonprofit announced its progress Thursday, in observance of World AIDS Day, and at a time when Jacksonville ranks third in the state for new cases of HIV.Florida ranks second in the country.
JASMYN serves young people ages 13 to 23. It’s a place where LGBT youth can go to find housing if they’re kicked out and even medical help.
JASMYN Executive Director Cindy Watson said the money raised has paid for testing, outreach and hiring more case managers who help with scheduling doctors appointments, insurance and medication.
Currently, 39 percent of HIV cases in Duval County are from people ages 13 to 29. JASMYN administered more than 500 free HIV tests to young people this year.
“We’ve also identified 8 to 10 new positive young people,” said Watson of those tested last year.
Like 20-year-old Ravyn Whinehouse, who found out she was HIV positive a year ago.
“If I didn’t start it, it would have probably manifested or would have got worse,” she said. ”Now that would have killed me.”
She said a JASMYN case manager helped her get on a treatment plan and now the virus no longer shows up in her blood tests.
In 2015, 55 HIV positive people used JASMYN’s case managers and 93 percent were linked to care.
About 150 people have given to the campaign, including $150,000 donations from the Chartrand Family Fund and the Hall-Halliburton Foundation. The Dolores Barr Weaver Fund is matching the fund up to $500,000..
Watson said those donations also help combat the stigma of HIV.
“When people say ‘I want to be a part of this. I want to make a difference. I’m going to put my name beside this,’ that really helps turn the tide so people see this is an issue in Jacksonville. Our people are important and we’re going to stand together to do something about it,” Watson said.
The #AIDSFreeJax campaign was launched November of last year. The goal was raising $1 million over three years, and one year later it’s 70 percent funded.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.