Positive Directions refocusing programs on heels of rise in HIV

Brett Hogan, Positive Directions Executive Director. Photo provided.

by Emma Rose Kraus
Journalism Intern

In a time when HIV/AIDS is thought of as something of the past, organizations such as Positive Directions of Wichita, Kansas are still here to inform the public of the continued risks.

Positive Directions functions as a prevention, education and awareness organization made up of members of the community to give support and care for those sick with the virus. While it has been around for about 25 years now and has played many other roles in that time, the organization is currently going back to its original agenda and focusing on the root of its mission: combating HIV/AIDS.

“In Wichita we are currently looking at around 500 plus people, that we know of, who are in care [for HIV/AIDS],” says Executive Director Brett Hogan, and while the numbers of those infected never dropped, a resurgence in infection rates is being seen.

“It’s how it’s being contracted,” Hogan says, “We’ve had a rise in Syphilis; we’ve had a rise in our meth and drug use and so things are coming back up, especially here in the Midwest in Wichita…it’s coming back.”

To counter this rise, Positive Directions is taking to the streets, providing free screenings and condoms to anyone who needs their help.

“There’s no one demographic that we’re targeting because there’s no one demographic that HIV targets,” says Hogan. “We have to re-educate. We have to really go after those who either forgot, or those who never knew.”

To do this ground work, Positive Directions is planning to re-launch a program called “Bodyguards”, a street and education team which will see volunteers going out into all facets of the community to talk to people in person, spreading information spanning from how to tell a good condom from a bad condom to protecting oneself against the virus.

“We’re not in the 80’s anymore,” exclaims Hogan. “We’re not in the time when you could turn on the TV and see different people always saying things like ‘Stand up against it’ and ‘Fight AIDS’. That’s gone under the radar again and obviously, HIV is still spreading at the same rate.”

This is a major reason behind Positive Directions’ refocusing. As an organization aimed to prevent the spread of AIDS and inform the public of both the dangers and options, Positive Directions sees its best place as being out in the community, spreading awareness where the media does not.

“We’re back on the streets again,” Hogan explains. “We’re back into the grassroots stuff, actually talking to the people one-on-one.”

Positive Directions hopes to not only continue these re-education efforts but to add to them in the future with more education opportunities and even a volunteer program open to youth.

“We’re at that point where everything’s going in the right direction,” Brett concludes, “We’ve taken down buildings we’re not using anymore so we’re really focusing and really going back to one main goal and that is our prevention.”

For information about Positive Directions, visit their Facebook page.

Copyright 2016 The Gayly – December 2, 2016 @ 4:30 p.m.