Health & WellnessHIV AwarenessQueer in Galveston

Travis Newman Joins Access Care of Coastal Texas to Empower Clients Living with HIV

Fighting stigma and providing resources for the Galveston community.

Travis Newman (Photography by Alex Rosa for OutSmart)

Having lived with HIV for 20 years, Travis Newman knew he wanted to give back to the community by doing all he could to help fight the stigma against people who are HIV-positive. So when the chance to get involved with Access Care of Coastal Texas (ACCT) presented itself, Newman jumped at the opportunity.

“I always told myself that if an opportunity to work at ACCT as a staff member ever arose, I would take it,” he says. “That opportunity happened in June of 2023, and I’m now celebrating my one-year anniversary with ACCT.”

ACCT is an organization dedicated to helping people living with HIV thrive. The organization began as a grassroots organization in response to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. ACCT helps those living with HIV in Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda Counties by assisting with housing, transportation, nutrition, behavioral health, and more. Their programs include rent, mortgage, and utility assistance; weekly client lunches and monthly food-pantry access; transportation to medical appointments; connection with behavioral health supports; harm reduction and testing; and pharmacy assistance.

In his role as director of nutrition, events, and volunteers, Newman manages a variety of programs within ACCT, including coordinating a weekly client luncheon, overseeing the agency’s food pantry, and implementing nutrition and wellness programming for clients. Newman’s introduction to ACCT began in 2010 when he started volunteering to help with the client luncheon.

There is such a stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS, and Newman believes everyone deserves love and respect. “As a person who has been living and thriving with HIV for 20 years, I have seen many improvements in treatment, improving the quality of life for those living with HIV. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma associated with HIV and that can only be ended with education. Most importantly, getting the message out about U = U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) is absolutely key in fighting the stigma that those living with HIV face. Even though someone is living with HIV, if they are in treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load, they are unable to transmit the virus. The availability of PrEP has also helped with the stigma, and I feel that anyone who is sexually active should consider it.”

The Wall of Remembrance Project, initiated by longtime Galveston residents Estelle and Arthur Alpert, whose son died of AIDS

ACCT’s outreach programming focuses on prevention through regular testing as well as PrEP education and making better and more informed decisions when it comes to your own sexual health, Newman says.

“For those testing positive for HIV, the goal is to get access to treatment to reach and maintain an undetectable viral load as quickly as possible. Each of ACCT’s programs supports this goal. Our housing program aids in keeping clients housed. Not having reliable housing is a huge barrier to medication compliance, which is essential to maintaining an undetectable viral load. Insurance and copay assistance help cover the cost of medical treatment to ensure that the cost isn’t a barrier to continued medical treatment and regular labs. Transportation assistance provides transportation to HIV-related medical appointments.”

“It’s also important for the public to know that ACCT provides holistic services to people living with HIV,” adds Laura Kicklighter, ACCT’s director of ethics and chief development officer. “The support we provide goes beyond connection to medical care, and encompasses related social determinants of health like housing, wellness, and community connections. It’s important that we ensure ethical and respectful client interactions, community outreach, and creating and cultivating a more robust philanthropy plan to include grants and individual supporters in the local community and beyond.”

As he continues his time with the organization, one of Newman’s goals is to transition their food pantry into a client-choice model.

“Clients would have the ability to choose from the products on hand rather than each being given the same items,” he says. “This will allow each client to choose the items that they will use while also reducing waste. In addition, I would like to continue to add more client programming, including exercise, educational, and art classes. I look forward to giving ACCT and its clients as many years as I can offer.”


ISLAND FAVORITES: Travis Newman

Favorite brunch spot? BLVD Seafood

Best-kept secret in town? Hotel Lucine’s rooftop

Favorite spot for a cocktail or mocktail? Daiquiri Time Out (DTO)

Your go-to spot for self care?  Bonjour Nails for a mani-pedi

Best place to celebrate a birthday? Rudy & Paco’s

Best place to satisfy a sweet tooth? Patty Cakes

Favorite place to catch a drag show? Island Time Beach Bar, and Robert’s Lafitte (I can’t choose a favorite)

Favorite local business to support? Sound Bar


 

For more information, go to accttexas.org

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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