Life is full of surprises, some of which can be life changing. January 20, 1995 is the day I found out I was HIV positive. When I was given my results, I thought it must be a mistake. I had stepped into a small clinic for what I thought would be a routine test. The realization of what was happening was almost too much to comprehend. Unfortunately, the clinic did not have any open follow up appointments available. The soonest was two months away.
Pati and Fernandos 20 Years Later
I was sent home that snowy January day with more questions than I knew to begin to ask. About a week later, I came to the realization I couldn’t have children. I say this because, at the time, not only did I think my diagnosis was a death sentence, but I thought bringing a healthy child into the situation was just not possible.
In the meantime while I was waiting for the day of my appointment to arrive, I heard about another clinic which specialized in HIV services. Based on all I had heard and the fact I was able to get in I decided to go there. I received great care and learned more about my diagnosis.
During this time I also received another life changing surprise: I found out I was pregnant. My first phone call however was not to family or friends but to an AIDS hotline to see what information they could provide about being HIV positive and pregnant. At that time they did not have much information on HIV and pregnancy but did share some studies about treatments that increased the chances of having a healthy child from 75% to about 90% (today, treatment and care increase the chance to over 99%). My next phone call was to the clinic where I was being seen to schedule an appointment to find out what the next steps would be.
When I went in for my appointment we discussed that at that time they did not have an in-house OBGYN. However they did have someone who they referred patients to. I went in to see this doctor who confirmed my pregnancy: I was 9 weeks pregnant. Then she also told me she would not be taking me as a patient; she did not want to treat me because of my HIV status. I was embarrassed and disheartened. But she referred me to a hospital. I was scared, anxious and excited about the prospect of a new doctor. I knew I had to keep trying to find someone who could help me.
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Anne Statton (center) with Team to End AIDS this summer. Photo courtesy AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
by Anne Statton, PACPI Executive Director
This year, for my birthday, I decided to give myself the gift of triathlon. Sounds funny, I know. I really enjoy competing against myself and with my friends and family.
I come from a swimming background. As a kid, I swam and competed in events with my sisters. One of my sisters, Laurie, was recruited to Kenyon College on a swimming scholarship. Another sister, Amy, is a coach of the Evanston Masters team. Sister Kersti continues to swim and encourages her lovely daughters to swim and they often rank high enough to compete in regionals and state championships.
My mother was the first woman referee with Illinois Swimming and when she passed away, TOPS (The Oak Park Swimmers team) put together a memorial swim meet in her honor, the Claire Statton Memorial Invitational. That meet is so popular that it can no longer be held at Oak Park High School and it’s now held at the University of Illinois at Chicago each January. Teams raise money to compete in the meet and the funds help pay swim fees for their own team members who need assistance. In 2009, my nieces swam for the first time in their grandmother’s swim meet and the local paper, the Oak Leaves, wrote an article on them and the family. It’s such a terrific legacy to have a swim meet named after my mother. My sisters and often consider ourselves “Illinois swimming royalty” because of it!
About five years ago, in January 2010, I accepted a challenge to join a group that would train for 12 weeks and complete an indoor triathlon at the end of the training. I felt it would help me to get active again, and as long as swimming was involved, I could do it! I went to almost every single training session. The amazing coaches (Scott Hutmacher and Chris Navin) helped adjust the workouts to my ability – basically I can’t run because my knees can’t take the pounding. The training was HARD.
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At this time of year, when we are all busy and ready to be with family, sharing food and maybe presents, we sincerely ask you to consider “buying” a philanthropic gift on Giving Tuesday: use the list below and donate to PACPI in honor of a loved one.
Giving Tuesday is December 2. We have a day for giving thanks. We have two days for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to giving back. World AIDS Day is December 1 so we see this as a perfect opportunity to give to programs helping people directly affected by HIV/AIDS, like PACPI’s moms and babies.
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Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative receives March of Dimes Community Award
Chicago, IL (November 19, 2014) – Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative (PACPI) received a 2014 Community Award from the March of Dimes Illinois Chapter to implement preconception and interconception health education for HIV-positive women.
PACPI will use March of Dimes funding to create a training curriculum for PACPI’s HIV-specific prenatal classes that will be culturally appropriate and applicable to group settings. The key messages will focus on health between pregnancies and how to plan and prepare for a pregnancy when one or both partners are HIV-positive.
“We are excited to work with March of Dimes to bring more resources to help women plan for a healthy future,” said Anne Statton, PACPI Executive Director. “This partnership will bring these messages to a population often facing poverty, homelessness, violence, and other challenges that direct their attention away from their reproductive health.”
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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week that the findings from their PROMISE randomized clinical trial shows that taking a three-drug regimen during pregnancy prevents mother-to-child HIV transmission more effectively than taking one drug during pregnancy, another during labor and two more after giving birth.
“This is another important step in our efforts to define the best approaches toward the goal of eliminating of mother-to-child HIV transmission globally,” Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the NIH.
The study enrolled more than 3,500 HIV-infected pregnant or post-partum women who did not meet national criteria for receiving anti-HIV treatment and more than 3,200 HIV-exposed infants of these women in India, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The participating women and children are being followed until two years after the last child is born to address questions about the safety and efficacy of anti-HIV drug regimens taken during the breastfeeding period. The study also is assessing maternal health after the breastfeeding period among women in good immune health who either stop or continue taking triple-drug anti-HIV regimens.
PACPI is looking for energetic and creative interns interested in using their skills and education in the nonprofit sector. PACPI is looking for individuals with a combination of experience in the areas of fundraising, nonprofit communications and marketing, grant research, copyediting, creative writing, social media copy and analytics, donor software, public relations, event planning, photography, and/or design.
Interested candidates should read the link below for more information and directions to apply. This position will begin in 2015.
PACPI Fundraising and Communications Internship
AIDS Foundation of Chicago interim president and CEO John Peller penned a great column on the “Mississippi baby” story in the Windy City Times, pointing out what we can do about HIV now, thanks for including PACPI’s work with women and infants!
Peller says, “The Mississippi baby shows that pregnant women with HIV need access to programs like the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative, which helps vulnerable moms deliver healthy, HIV-negative babies. If the Mississippi baby’s mother had access to such a program, her daughter may have been born into this world HIV-free.”
Here at PACPI, we work with the most vulnerable of women who are HIV-positive and need additional support and links to care and services. Our programs help women and families just like this family in Mississippi. We work to prevent transmission of perinatal HIV by focusing on the mother’s health and addressing needs in her life.
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Kimo of Chicago Spirit Brigade, Jonathan of Great Lakes Bears, and Anne Statton of PACPI at The Call!
This spring, Chicago Spirit Brigade (CSB) held the Spring Fling Drag Review featuring Ashley Morgan at The Call to raise money for PACPI. Another local organization, the Great Lakes Bears of Chicago, committed to matching the CSB funds raised that night. Such generosity, we were almost left speechless! We received a donation of more than $1,600 from the Spring Fling.
CSB uses their athletic abilities and love for performing to raise funds for direct care services of men, women, and children living with life-threatening challenges like HIV/AIDS. Every dollar donated to their blue buckets is matched by CSB thanks to their Spread the Cheer fund.
PACPI was also invited to attend and speak at CSB’s Starry Night fundraiser in July for the Spread the Cheer fund, which was created to support organizations like ours.