Plano Star-courier > Plano Insider
HSNT hosts inaugural Cuisine for a Cure
By Liz McGathey, Staff writer
Health Services of North Texas (formerly AIDS Services of North Texas) is spreading the word and to help support Texans living with HIV/AIDS, Health Services will present its inaugural “Cuisine for a Cure” on Feb. 28 from 6-9:30 p.m. The event features a five-course, progressive-style dinner throughout the Shops at Legacy in Plano.
The dinner will begin with appetizers from Fireside Pies and a reception at Culinary Connection and moves on to soup and sushi at Naan. The salad will be provided at Nicola's followed by a fashion break at U Med Spa with The Ginger Man Beer Garden and appetizers by Half Shells and an informal fashion show by the Shops at Legacy. The entree will be provided by Coast Global Seafood and dessert by Jaspers at the Angelika. Wine pairings will be offered at each restaurant and favors will be provided for each guest.
“This is the first Cuisine for a Cure that we have ever done,” said Brian Schmedinghoff, Development Director of Health Services of North Texas. “We’re very excited about it. The restaurants have been so gracious to donate the food and wine, and Socially Write donated all the printing, so there are no expenses at all for this event. One hundred percent of every dollar raised will go straight to our capital campaign fund, which is rare for a fundraiser.”
Tickets are $200 and will benefit the Collin County capital campaign for Health Services of North Texas. For reservations, contact Kathy Kennedy at 214-668-7479 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fundraisers like Cuisine for a Cure helps HSNT meet the needs that grants and other restricted donations cannot. Schmedinghoff said the revenue from fundraisers is used to “keep the lights on” and meet other general expenses. Cuisine for a Cure funds are intended to jumpstart the Plano Capital Campaign, to help HSNT prepare to build a new and bigger facility.
“All of our clients are considered low-income, with over 60 percent being at or below the federal poverty level,” Schmedinghoff said. “We provide free medical care, prescriptions and 'medical case management' – which basically means educating clients on how to take their meds and participate fully in their own health care. We also offer support services that help people access and stay in care – we provide housing assistance for clients that are at-risk of becoming homeless, transportation to and from medical appointments, mental health counseling, a food pantry, and we help people that have insurance keep it by assisting with co-pays and deductibles through our Insurance Assistance program.”
“HSNT is the only HIV-specific agency located in, or directly serving, Collin County,” he said. “The wonderful thing about our agency is that if someone in Dallas needed to get all of the services that we provide in one location, they would have to travel between five or six different agencies. Because we have this 'one stop shop' atmosphere, it’s much easier for clients to receive care with minimal disruption to their lives.”
Schmedinghoff said many Collin County residents don't realize HIV is a burgeoning issue in the area.
According to Health Services, between 2000 and 2008 the number of reported people living with HIV has increased by 318 percent in Collin County alone. The number of new reported HIV infections that occurred in 2008 were double the new infections in 2000. Forty one percent of the clients served at Health Services of North Texas’ Plano office have an AIDS diagnosis, which is higher than the Denton (34 percent) or Greenville (37 percent) offices. Schmedinghoff said the rate of HIV diagnoses per person has been growing faster than the general population.
“Keep in mind that this only counts for reported cases – we know there are lots of people out there who may be positive and not know it,” he said. “Nationally over 50 percent of new HIV cases are in young adults under 25 years old, and we see more young adults in our Plano office than any other office by far.”
One roadblock for HSNT is the misconception of who their clients are. Schmedinghoff said people have an “old school” vision of who they serve.
“Today about 40 percent of our clients are heterosexual females, and we have seen a major uptake in the number of elderly persons who test HIV positive,” he said. “With both of these populations, they tend to arrive at HSNT sicker, because their doctor didn’t consider them 'at risk' for HIV.”
He said when they finally get tested, they have already been experiencing HIV-related illnesses and their CD4 count (formerly referred to as T cells) are very low.
“People are very afraid of disclosing their status because they fear they will be judged or mistreated by their neighbors if they knew they were HIV positive,” Schmedinghoff said. “We had one client from our Plano office – a single mom with a teenage son – who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Surprisingly enough she told us that she was relieved to receive the diagnosis, because she could tell people that she was sick, and they would hug her and offer support. When she told one or two people that she was HIV positive in the past, they basically never spoke to her again.
“As a result of all this fear and secrecy, people don’t reveal their HIV status to loved ones – and understandably so. But what happens is HIV disease becomes an invisible burden to these individuals – not only does it wear on their emotional health and stability, but it exacerbates the illusion that HIV doesn’t exist in our communities. Hopefully one of the things we can address in the future is additional educational opportunities, especially with young people, to help correct this stigma and make people feel less afraid and alone.”
HSNT has partnered with the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse to provide free rapid HIV testing one day a week. For information call toll free 1-800-974-AIDS or visit www.healthntx.org.
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