November 27, 2023
Community Spotlight: Vivent Health partners with Visual AIDS for Day With(out) Art 2023. A World AIDS Day event
Since 1988, December 1 has been recognized as World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is a time to remember those lost to the disease and the devastating impact it has had on the global community. More than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS related illnesses over the past 40 years, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Here in Denver, non-profit organizations like Vivent Health have been fighting the good fight for policy change and provide preventive care along with health and home services to those in Denver living with HIV.
On Sunday, December 3, Vivent Health partnered with Visual AIDS for Day With(out) Art 2023 to present Everyone I Know Is Sick, a screening of five new videos generating connections between HIV and other forms of illness and disability.
I had the opportunity to connect with Mandy Louis, Director of Development with Vivent Health, who helped organize the upcoming screening and panel discussion at MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater to mark Day With(out) Art, an annual event that coincides with World AIDS Day.
Hi Mandy! How are you doing?
Wonderful! It's my favorite time of year - the celebrations and fellowships of generosity; the reflections of gratitude - and everything just seems to twinkle a little more.
Share with us the history of Vivent Health and its mission?
For more than 40 years, Vivent Health has been relentless in the fight against HIV, from advocating for policy change to protecting communities through prevention efforts to welcoming and caring for all who come through our doors. We offer people living with HIV the highest-quality care, including wraparound social services designed to support the whole person. And perhaps most of all, we provide a safe, judgment-free zone for everyone we serve, regardless of whom they love, the color of their skin, where they live, or how much money they have. All so we can help people living with HIV live long, healthy lives, and work toward ending the HIV epidemic.
In 2017, Vivent Health completed a merger with Rocky Mountain Cares and we are proud to be able to serve almost 3,500 patients and clients last year in Denver with our medical home model. We have grown from a staff of 12 to a little over 80 now and have expanded our services to meet the needs of our community.
What are some of the services and programs available through Vivent Health?
Vivent Health is a medical home for people living with HIV - that means we provide medical, dental, pharmacy, and behavioral health services for people living with HIV all under roof but beyond that we provide vital social services like housing assistance and a food pantry - even insurance navigation. You name it. How can someone be expected to take their medication or make a doctor’s appointment if you don’t have a safe place to sleep and don’t know when you will next eat? This model of care means our medical outcomes far exceed those of other HIV medical providers. For someone living with HIV, the goal is to suppress the virus until it is no longer detectable. When the virus is undetectable, it is untransmittable. 96% of Denver patients in our care achieve viral suppression - the national average is 66%.
Part of ending the HIV epidemic is preventing the spread. There are estimated to be about 10,000 people living with HIV in Denver. In 2021, there were 271 new cases. Our Prevention Team is in the community to educate on harm reduction, hand out harm reduction supplies like condoms, narcan, and exchange syringes, and test for HIV and STIs so we can link them to the care they want.
The Colorado Sun just did a great article on how all of our services are linked here.
Vivent Health is hosting an event to screen, Everybody I Know Is Sick, as part of World AIDS Day: Day With(out) Art 2023, at MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater. Could you tell us more about World AIDS Day and the upcoming event?
Vivent Health is not just about treating people living with HIV - we want our clients and patients to live their longest, healthiest lives - we want them to THRIVE. And a thriving life is full of light and color and art. I love that we are able to connect with MCA Denver for this international event - at such a historic venue steeped in community. It is at the heart of World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is Let Communities Lead. World AIDS Day is a time of community reflection and remembrance. Every year on December 1, the world gathers to remember the stories of those lost, educate others about HIV/AIDS impact, and rally to eliminate the devastating stigma associated with the disease.
In 1988, the inaugural World AIDS Day served as a forum to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and honor those whose lives have been impacted by the epidemic. When you look back at the last 35 years, it is humbling to think how far we have come - and yet daunting to look at how much is left to do. Thanks to advancements in medical research, increased access to treatment and prevention, and a broader understanding of the virus, significant progress has been made but the HIV epidemic is not over.
Day With(out) Art was born a year after World AIDS Day from the devastating effect AIDS had on the artistic community. Today, Day With(out) Art is a series of newly commissioned films by Visual AIDS out of New York. There are over 100 screenings worldwide and Vivent Health is proud to partner with Visual AIDS to bring this free event to Denver. Day With(out) Art 2023: Everyone I Know is Sick is a program of five videos generating connections between HIV and other forms of illness and disability. The program features newly commissioned work by Dorothy Cheung (Hong Kong), Hiura Fernandes & Lili Nascimento (Brazil), Beau Gomez (Canada/Philippines), Dolissa Medina & Ananias P. Soria (USA), and Kurt Weston (USA).
Inspired by a statement from Cyrée Jarelle Johnson in the book, Black Futures, by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, Everyone I Know Is Sick examines how our society excludes disabled and sick people by upholding a false dichotomy of health and sickness. Inviting us to understand disability as a common experience rather than an exception to the norm, the program highlights a range of experiences spanning HIV, COVID, mental health, and aging. The commissioned artists foreground the knowledge and expertise of disabled and sick people in a world still grappling with multiple ongoing pandemics.
Watch the trailer for, Everyone I Know Is Sick.
How cab the community become involved in the important work and advocacy of Vivent Health?
We depend on the community’s help and involvement! Funding for programs that support people living with HIV is being threatened right now as I type this. Follow us on social media @viventhealth for calls to action and immediate ways you can help. Want to get more involved? Have an idea about partnership or someone we should be talking to? Contact me directly firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, the most immediate need is funding. You can find us on Colorado Gives: coloradogives.org/organization/Viventhealth and make a recurring donation that will be matched 100% by Colorado Gives Foundation until December, or you can make a donation at viventhealth.org/donate
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?
Completing our first year of our Thrive program! Thanks to a grant from Caring for Denver, this year we piloted and launched a strengths-based, harm reduction program providing people who inject drugs with a one-on-one coach to help discover their strengths, navigate resources, and celebrate their successes. I can’t wait to hear the success stories!
And I hope we can expand our inaugural farm-to-food pantry partnership. Seeing our clients and patients leave with bushels of local bok choy, butternut squash, and anaheim peppers—even fresh flowers from Ekar Farm—is so joyful. I hope we can raise the funds from our community to do it again.
Tickets are free with RSVP. For more information click here.
Over 100 museums, universities, and other organizations, globally, will present Everyone I Know Is Sick on or around December 1, World AIDS Day. If you would like to attend, but are not in Denver, click here to see the full list of partnering institutions.