Pride Weekend Public Profile: Jesse Quinn, Development Manager, HIV Alliance
On Saturday, October 12, Southern Oregon Pride hosts its annual parade in Ashland, noon – 3 pm. It is the 50th year since Stonewall protests helped define the tenacity of LGBTQ rights. Since then, the community has had ups and downs, victories and setbacks; in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, AIDS emerged as a particular vicious enemy, especially with gay men, ravishing thousands of lives. Jesse Quinn, Development Manager with HIV Alliance helps us understand what dangers HIV continues to present, and the resources to prevent infection.
Rogue Valley Messenger: HIV no longer holds the same place with public attention as it did in the late 80s and through the 90s. How does that affect your ability to do your work?
Jesse Quinn: In general, there is a lack of understanding and awareness associated with HIV, which contributes to people’s overall unwillingness to get tested. In Oregon only six of 10 residents have been tested for HIV and one in seven of people in the U.S. living with HIV are unaware of their status. HIV is still a major public health concern with significant long-term costs such as stigma, financial strain, medication use, and more.
We see newly diagnosed HIV infections across the state (230 last year) and serve a vital role in connecting clients to care.
RVM: Isn’t this work that the county health services should do? Or, asked differently, why is it necessary to have a nonprofit manage this work?
JQ: The services we provide are different than those provided by local health departments. These services include medical case management, dental referrals, employment assistance, prescription assistance, PrEP coordination, access to pharmacists, and more.
HIV does not stop at county borders; people move, and providers are often in other counties. HIV Alliance partners with state and county providers to deliver care to meet the needs of clients in multiple regions.
RVM: The organization started in Eugene, but has expanded, including southern Oregon. Can you provide some numbers for Jackson and Josephine Counties? How many people affected? How many people do you serve?
JQ: HIV Alliance started in 1994 and has grown to serve 13 counties for medical case management, seven counties for prevention services, and 31 counties for dental case management.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, 112 individuals living with HIV reside in Josephine and 285 in Jackson as of April 2019. In addition to providing medical case management, HIV Alliance provides prevention services such as naloxone distribution and syringe exchange services in Grants Pass and Cave Junction. In Jackson County we provide Naloxone during the syringe exchange program every first and third Monday from 2-4pm.
In 2018, 737 clients received naloxone and 51 overdoses were reversed in Jackson and Josephine County due to the live saving medication distributed.
RVM: In Jackson and Josephine Counties, what is the split between transmission of HIV between syringe and sex?
JQ: Anyone can become positive for HIV and the Center for Disease Control recommends everyone between the ages of 13-64 receive testing at least once. While It is recommended for people who engage in high-risk activities to get tested every three to six months.
Testing services at HIV Alliance are free, quick, and confidential. For citizens of Jackson County, testing services are provided at Jackson County Health and Human Services.
Individual factors for acquiring HIV vary and the rates in Jackson county can be seen below: 52 percent men who have sex with men; 15 percent have used injection drugs
14% heterosexual contact; nine percent of men who have sex with men and injection drug use; seven percent unknown; and, two percent pediatric.
RVM: Is your organization more focused on prevention or care?
JQ: The mission of our organization is to support individuals living with HIV and prevent the spread of new infections. Both prevention and care are the center of our work as an agency. We use prevention strategies proven to reduce the spread of HIV. This includes syringe exchanges, HIV and HCV testing, and PrEP coordination.
An example of our prevention services includes PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), a medication prescribed to people who are at a high risk of exposure to HIV and is extremely effective at preventing new infections. Our goal is to assist all high-risk Oregonians in accessing PrEP. We currently offer PrEP coordination services in Jackson and Josephine and 29 other Oregon counties. Daily adherence to PrEP can help prevent new HIV infections by more than 90 percent.