New Community Contacts - After All These Years!

November 29, 2011
by Steve Arnold, RESULTS Bloomington

Description of World AIDS Day Activities

It now looks like we may have four speakers at the press conference on World AIDS Day: Walter Miya, a Tanzanian tour leader who has an organization that is supporting the building of a library in the Kilimanjaro region; Dr. Henry Wakhungu, a SPEA professor who is involved in IU’s partnership with Moi University in Kenya; someone associated with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Uganda, and myself.  Both Mr. Miya and Dr. Wakhungu have experience with issues of HIV within their families.   We do not have the Nyaka-related speaker nailed down, but Karen Like of the Indiana Friends of Nyaka is checking  into finding someone.

I intend to speak first to outline the issue in general, and then to have others speak who may be able to fill in some details of human interest.  I would like each of us to speak for 3-5 minutes and then invite questions from the media. The press conference will take place in the City Hall atrium.  Mayor Kruzan will make the proclamation at 11 am, and we have a welcome by the city to use the podium immediately thereafter

I have attached the editorial packet that I will be making available to the press representatives. I also intend to create a one-page handout with the names and some brief information (maybe 3 sentences) about each of the speakers.   If any of the speakers wants to have other literature available, that would be fine.  I have not yet invited the media, as I had been waiting to get clear who would speak and to find out if specific media representatives have already been invited to the mayoral proclamation on AIDS which will precede the press conference.  I intend to invite the Herald-Times, the Indiana Daily Student, WFIU, and WFHB, and possibly WTIU.

Thanks so much for your help with this project.  I hope it will serve to inform our fellow Bloomingtonians and that the media attention will be helpful with governmental funding for global AIDS programs.

Description of How World AIDS Day Happened

Ken –

I didn’t engage the mayor.  The local Community AIDS Action Group, whose existence I was unaware of, has been getting the mayor to make World AIDS Day proclamations for several years.  They also have a gathering the previous evening to remember community members with HIV who have died.  So they had a program planned where they will have the proclamation and then have two HIV-positive people speak.

I learned of this when I was trying to find out if anyone in the community was already planning something for World AIDS Day.  I called up the leader of Positive Link, a hospital-based group in town that provides services to HIV-positive people.  I happened to know her from having worked for the same mental health center 25 years ago.  She put me in touch with the people putting on the program, and she also put me in touch with a member of the AIDS Action Group, Walter Miya, who grew up in Dar Es-Salaam and leads tours to the Kilimanjaro region.  He is starting a library in a village there.  I had coffee with him, and he turned out to have had 11 relatives who died of AIDS and several, including his sister, who are on anti-retrovirals.  One of his interests in starting the library is to create a venue where education can be done about AIDS prevention and treatment.

I also called the group Giving Back Africa.  Its founder, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo as the child of a missionary, is providing scholarships for kids from the town she grew up in.  She’s worked with RESULTS in the past.  The executive director went to school with my stepson.  So while they are not involved in AIDS issues, they know lots of Africans and people working in Africa.  They gave me the names of several IU faculty involved with IU’s collaboration with Moi University in Kenya, where HIV treatment and training of medical and public health personnel has been part of the work.  One of the professors in the School of Public and Environmental Administration, Henry Wakhungu, is going to speak at the press conference.  He also has relatives who have died of AIDS and others alive on ARV’s funded in part by assistance from the richer countries.

I also tried to get someone from the Indiana Friends of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School in Uganda, which has a group of 25 people here including some from the biggest evangelical church in town, some from a Presbyterian church, and some from Rotary and Kiwanis.  Unfortunately, the woman I communicated with did not sound very enthusiastic and eventually told me that the four people she had contacted, all of whom had actually visited the school, were unavailable at that time.  I also contacted an attorney who had intended to go to the school and make a documentary, but had pulled out when his wife got breast cancer.  He was eager for me to see the film he had eventually paid people to make, but he did not want to speak at the event.

I asked the AIDS coalition people if it would be OK if I piggy-backed a short press conference on top of the mayoral proclamation. That was Ok with them.  Then I called the mayor’s office.  The staff thought it would be a good idea but had to run it by the mayor.    My wife had put on a coffee for the mayor when he was facing a primary challenge last spring, and we have been politically active enough that he knows us.  So this was no problem.

What I am running into is that it’s not clear I can get press participation.  I just started on this today, and it became clear that the local part of the program was going to run for a half hour before the three of us got started.  I also do not know the names of the local speakers.  I asked if they had invited the press, and they said that no one ever came in past years, so they didn’t bother this year.  So here I am 10 days before the event trying to invite the press, and they wants me to email a press release, which is a bit hard for me to create, as we are really part of a bigger program that I don’t know too much about, and the lady who would be able to tell me may be away on Thanksgiving break.  On the other hand, it looks like I might be pre-recorded with her for a half-hour segment on a community radio show a couple of days before the event.   The college newspaper, with a circulation of 30,000, is on break until Sunday, but I know the email to send my press release to.

So I’m a bit nervous about how this will play out.  I’d hate to invite this professor to speak and then not have any media show up.  But given the mix of local angles and global issues, I think it might sell to the city newspaper.  I notice that, despite their local emphasis, they’ve run a fair amount about South Sudan mainly because a family from that area immigrated to Bloomington, became prominent through the basketball playing of two of their sons, and are now involved in the govt of the new nation there.  So we can get international stories in the paper if there are local people involved.

I’m also impressed that my spending about an hour asking around led me to large numbers of resources many of which I did not know existed.  I wonder if that is true in almost any town.  For example, the last time we met with Senator Lugar, in 2003, it came about because Nick enlisted the minister of Lugar’s church, found several professors of medicine and public health, one of whom had done a project with Lugar’s wife on reducing child mortality rates among African Americans in Indianapolis when he was mayor, a community clinic doctor who grew up in Nigeria and told Lugar about watching a mother of a young child die for lack of medicine that would cost what she pays for a pair of shoes, and found high school kids and their teacher who had been involved in the DATA program.  Nick actually got Lugar’s minister to moderate the meeting.  It makes me think that these resources are present in many places and that it does not take too much to find them.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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