LIVING with HIV
LIVE Consortium deals with the second front of the disease.
By Marene Gustin • Photo by Dalton DeHart
In the ’80s, an HIV-positive test result was often soon followed by full-blown AIDS. Today, the idea of living with the virus has become one more part of the ever-changing world we inhabit. Foot-long mobile phones have evolved into tiny handheld computers, our cars tell us which direction to take, and a once-certain death sentence is now a manageable disease. But as the pandemic’s headlines have receded, so too has the prevalence of AIDS education and prevention. Experts call it AIDS fatigue.
But that doesn’t mean the problem has disappeared. In fact, the incidence of infection is still high. Today the city health department estimates 20,000 to 22,000 Houstonians are living with HIV.
“The numbers are so huge here,” says attorney Beau Miller. “Today’s college kids, African Americans, and Hispanics don’t think it’s a problem for them, but they are the groups with the fastest-growing numbers.”
Miller, who lives with the virus, began to see the need for prevention and education as a board member of Center for AIDS (CFA). With CFA’s encouragement, he started LIVE Consortium, Inc., a nonprofit that aims to “facilitate individuals who are in need of health and wellness services in finding those programs and services.”
LIVE’s first board meeting was in January, and it’s been nonstop since. Earlier this year, the organization held its first fundraiser and a month-long educational and awareness campaign at the University of Houston, culminating in a health fair and rally. The university’s Anti-Stigma Campaign aims to proactively reduce the number of HIV infections in the United States by helping to cultivate social awareness and compassion and dispel HIV myths, while also encouraging HIV-infected individuals to seek treatment.
“We don’t want to remake the wheel here,” Miller insists, “but we need to send messengers into these groups that they can identify with. We want to reach not just HIV individuals but people affected by it as well, the people around them. LIVE is about letting people know they can have long and healthy lives with treatment. We can win this war!”
The 35-year-old Miller has ambitious plans for the brand-new organization. Besides the Anti-Stigma Campaign, LIVE is working on a Health and Wellness Research Project to compile data and present how HIV and its stigma affect individuals and the population at large; HIVE (HIV Education program); a mentor program for the newly diagnosed called INSPIRE; SLATE, a series of social educational programs for professionals; the PPO (Primary Physician Outreach), designed to aid doctors in educating new patients; and even the first International Conference on HIV and Aging. It’s a multi-pronged and well-thought-out agenda, one that Miller is eventually hoping to take international.
“If only there were 48 hours in a day,” muses Miller. As founder and CEO of LIVE, Miller has been on the run since the beginning of the year. But now that the Spring events are over, he just might take time to breathe. “Maybe now I can take a break,” he says. “Or get back to work at the law firm!” Also on tap, a run in Memorial Park, watching some flicks, and even sleep. But for Miller, as so many in the community who volunteer, the hard work and personal sacrifices are well worth the results.
“This is about people coming together to create a better quality of life for all of us.” Or, as the organization’s motto states, “Live Better, Be the Cure.”
For more information: LiveConsortium.org.
Marene Gustin also writes about the Red Ribbon Adventure Tours in this issue of OutSmart .