30 Days of Thanksgiving Community

Damien Center – 30 Days of Thanksgiving

At F.C. Tucker we talk a lot about “paying our civic rent,” so for the month of November, we would like to express our gratitude to the many organizations and individuals who serve their communities tirelessly and make Indiana a better place to live and work. We obviously can’t highlight everyone, but we would like to salute these 30 organizations that are making a difference.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 7: Damien Center

There are a handful of organizations around the state that assist in the combating of HIV/AIDS, none more respected than Indianapolis’ Damien Center. In fact, there are none larger and older either, as this organization has been intact since 1987. Their work touches more than 25% of all Hoosiers suffering from HIV, solidifying them as one of the most important centers for HIV/AIDS care in the state. Their overall goal is to not only treat the effects of this disease, but to educate in the prevention of its contraction.

Certain areas of Indiana are currently suffering from HIV outbreaks due mainly to the sharing of needles. This comes from the overwhelming use of opioids that’s currently ravaging Hoosiers. With recent needle exchange programs, services which provide clean needles to users in order to prevent the spread of diseases like HIV, being shut down, the Damien Center is more important now than ever. “When people living with HIV are connected with healthcare and stay retained in care,” says Jeremy Turner, Director of Development and Communications for the Damien Center in a recent interview with FOX59, “…that means HIV is harder to transmit to other people.” This illustrates exactly what the center does best, providing meaningful care and education to those in need. To start, they do this by offering free HIV testing, as well as tests for STI’s and pregnancy. In collaboration with Walgreens, the Damien Center provides testers at various Walgreens locations around the city for HIV tests, while the Bellflower Clinic helps in providing STI testing.

Those already suffering from the disease can not only go to the Damien Center for treatment, but they also provide housing, a food pantry, legal services, career assistance, emergency aid and even counseling. Those affected should simply stop by the center to request assistance and care. As far as prevention goes, they of course, offer complimentary testing but they also teach about risk through comprehensive counseling, even providing pre-exposure prophylaxis to help reduce the spread of diseases.

Recently, Indiana received a record breaking grant to provide HIV services, something the Damien Center will likely take advantage of when providing the help those in Indiana need right now. Last year, the Damien Center helped over a thousand HIV patients and provided hundreds more with housing, food and counseling assistance. Through local donations they were able to raise nearly $100,000 during their Dining Out for Life event which involved dozens of Indy restaurants and even more volunteers. With the help of the efforts from those outside Indiana, and the indomitable giving spirit of Hoosiers, the Damien Center will do all it can to combat this disease. “We have the tools now,” says Turner, “and ending AIDS is possible.”