Gainesville Times (10.22.03) - Monday, October 27, 2003
The North Georgia AIDS Alliance, formed several years ago, has
recently taken steps to raise its public profile. A $50,002
North Georgia Community Foundation grant enabled the group to
hire Kathleen Edwards as its first executive director and to
move into new headquarters.
The group will hold its biggest fundraiser, a $60-per-person
gala, on Nov. 20. "Atlanta doesn't have a corner on the
[fundraising] market," said Matt Adams, president of the
Gainesville, Ga.-based alliance. "I think there are people in
this area willing to get involved, but they haven't been
Edwards said the organization hopes to raise $100,000 by
August 2004. The alliance has already set up a support group;
plans underway include a counseling program, a speaker's
bureau, food pantry, transportation network and limited
financial assistance to HIV/AIDS patients.
The organization's goal is "to be able to follow patients
every step of the way, from HIV testing through hospice care,"
Edwards said. "And we'd like to have a large van or RV," she
added, "to use as a mobile AIDS center, to reach the other 12
counties that we serve." She said the stigma surrounding
HIV/AIDS creates a minor fundraising challenge, but many
"silent" partners contribute without having their names
Robin Hale, a local actor and theatrical director diagnosed
with HIV 12 years ago, believes the support group is one of
the alliance's most valuable services. "A buddy system is
badly needed in this area," he said. He also advocates more
educational outreach, since young people have become
nonchalant about unprotected sex, mistakenly believing AIDS is
no big deal because antiretrovirals are now available.
"One thing I want to get across is that these drugs are
extremely toxic," Hale said. "The side effects are sometimes
worse than the disease itself."