“Many of our neighbors see AIDS as a thing of the past,” said Lee Storrow, executive director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network. “When in reality, HIV is something that touches the daily lives of tens of thousands of community members across the state.”
The NC AIDS Action Network has been working to advance policies and systems that support the lives of people living with HIV in North Carolina for nearly a decade. NCAAN was born out of an effort to end the waitlist for the state’s HIV Medication Assistance Program – once the longest in the nation.
NCAAN is now on the front lines of ending the HIV epidemic and supporting the communities affected through outreach, public education, policy advocacy and community-building. Since 2010, more than 20,000 people have acted with the organization, resulting in numerous legislative victories and tangible change for individuals living with HIV and AIDS in North Carolina.
According to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 35,000 people who are diagnosed and living with HIV in North Carolina, and there are thousands more who don’t know their status yet.
Each year, approximately 1,300 people contract the virus in our state, according to Storrow.
“We are so thankful to now have treatment that allows people to live long healthy lives and achieve full suppression of the virus,” Storrow said. “Unfortunately, a lack of access to medical services, coupled with stigma, especially in rural areas of our state, means we have a long way to go to get everyone living with HIV into care.”
In 2018, NCAAN received a major investment from the Elton John AIDS Foundation to fund the continuation of this work. A part of that investment was a $75,000 challenge grant to create an agency endowment with the North Carolina Community Foundation in honor of Carolyn McAllaster.
“We’ve been long time supporters of the NC AIDS Action Network and are pleased to invest in their exciting evolution,” said Mohamed Osman, EJAF grants director. “This endowment will both build long term sustainability for NCAAN and recognize the many accomplishments of Carolyn McAllaster.”
The Endowment will fund an annual scholarship in McAllaster’s name for a North Carolina HIV advocate to attend AIDS Watch, the nation’s largest annual constituent-based HIV and AIDS advocacy event, in honor of her many accomplishments as a founding board member of NCAAN. She is retiring from the Duke University School of Law in June 2019 after spending her career advocating for and with people living with HIV across North Carolina and the southern United States as the founder of the Health Justice Clinic at Duke and director of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiate.
“We’re beyond thrilled to recognize Carolyn’s accomplishments in an ongoing way and are so thankful for this investment from the Elton John AIDS Foundation,” Storrow said. “Carolyn has always been a force to be reckoned with in the HIV policy world, and we’re thrilled to carry on her legacy on an annual basis through this fund.”
The North Carolina AIDS Action Network Endowment was established March 29 and will continue to grow. The founding gift from EJAF was made as a matching challenge and NCAAN will work over the next year to match that investment.
“We’re really excited about what this means for HIV advocacy in North Carolina,” Storrow said. “This permanent philanthropic fund will empower work to happen on behalf of people in North Carolina living with HIV for many years to come.”
NCCF is honored to steward this important fund for North Carolina, according to Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, NCCF CEO and president. “We couldn’t be prouder to partner with the North Carolina AIDS Action Network to ensure this endowment supports the critical work they’re doing for our state,” she said. “We’re excited to see this fund grow and make a real difference for our communities.”