This week, we turn our sights on St. Louis, Missouri, and Saint Louis Effort for AIDS (EFA). According to the Missouri Department of Health, 5,186 people were living with HIV in the St. Louis region at the end of 2010. New diagnoses have steadily increased in recent years: There were 261 new diagnoses in 2009 and 300 in 2010. With this upward trend, it's important to have activists, educators and organizations leading efforts to get people into care and doing outreach to prevent new infections.
TheBody.com recently interviewed Cheryl Oliver, the executive director of Saint Louis Effort for AIDS.
How did Saint Louis Effort for AIDS get started, and how it has changed over time?
Saint Louis Effort for AIDS was founded in 1985. It is St. Louis' oldest AIDS service organization [ASO]. Saint Louis Effort for AIDS was founded as an all-volunteer organization -- friends helping friends. The original funding for services, which included educational outreach, an informational and referral phone hotline, a buddy program and support groups, resulted from the grassroots organizing of concerned LGBT community organizers and gay bar owners. The proceeds from six drag show performances provided the initial operating budget for EFA. Throughout the following years, additional programs, services and other ASOs evolved in the St. Louis metropolitan region to address the enormous changes in medical treatment and testing for HIV.