TAB: Where Your Money & Support Goes!

TAB: Where Your Money & Support Goes!

The 2019 Telluride AIDS Benefit began on Thursday, February 21, 6-9 p.m. with the Student Fashion Show at Telluride’s Palm Theater and ends on March 4 with the ever-popular Designer Sample Sale.

For a history and event overview, go here.

Can’t attend? Donate here to help “Fight. Fund. Educate.”

For all tickets, go here.

To learn more about TAB’s original beneficiary, WestCAP/Colorado Health Network, scroll down and listen to a podcast with Darrell Vigil, CEO, CHN, and Misty Aaberg, Director, Regional Projects, WestCAP.

Information about TAB’s other beneficiaries is also featured.

It is all about following the money.

And, when the subject is the Telluride AIDS Benefit, that is a very good thing.

In the context of the nonprofit, following the money drops you on the doorstep of TAB’s beneficiaries, today, eight in all. Since 1994, largely through its Gala Fashion Show, (#26 this year), TAB has managed to donate just under $3 million towards HIV/AIDS prevention education, advocacy, clinical care, and NGOs. That said, about 85% of TAB funds are used in TAB’s home state of Colorado.

“From the spectacular mountains of Telluride to the beautiful deserts surrounding Grand Junction, and from bustling Denver to far off Africa, the Telluride AIDS Benefit gives to beneficiaries fighting the good fight against HIV and AIDS,” explains Jessica Galbo, TAB’s assistant director. “Front line work is never easy, but our beneficiaries sure make it look effortless, inspiring us by creating beautiful stories out of great adversity. We encourage you to learn more and be inspired to get involved – whether locally as a TAB volunteer or donor, or by joining one of the organizations below to reach an end to the HIV epidemic.”

All that goodwill started for TAB with one beneficiary known as WestCAP or WCAP, today under the umbrella of the Colorado Health Network. (More on that below.)

TAB & WestCAP, in the beginning:

A small group of locals led by Kandee DeGraw founded the Telluride AIDS Benefit in 1993 to help a friend defray his costly medical expenses.

That friend was Robert Presley, a kooky creative genius and local enfant terrible. Fabrics were his canvas: he dyed, slashed and frayed them into submission, turning  improbable materials into provocative designs. Presley died from complications due to HIV/AIDS in August 1997, having walked the runway only months earlier at TAB’s fabulous fashion show decked out in lime green and wearing a sash that read “Miss AIDs.”

In TAB’s first year, the nascent non-profit netted just over $10,000. At Presley’s request, the money went directly to the Western Colorado AIDS Project (WCAP), a community-based referral and educational providers which assists HIV-infected individuals, their families and those at risk across 22 counties along the western slope of Colorado including Archuleta, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Jackson, Lake, La Plata, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Routt, Rio Blanco, San Juan, San Miguel and Summit.

From WCAP, persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families in the service area receive information about risks, prevention and treatment options, with some staff traveling to outlying counties and mountain towns.

WCAP’a staff is dedicated to providing the most complete, accurate information available without regard to age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender expression.

However, when TAB was just one year old, WCAP was still a very small nonprofit operating out of Grand Junction under the direction of a small board of directors and administered part-time by a nurse named Shelley Nielsen. Nielsen did great work with the Mesa County Health Department and as part-time executive director/case manager for WCAP. Clients being served lived primarily in Mesa County, until Presley worked his magic.

Thanks to Presley and TAB, WestCAP was able to grow into a much larger non-profit.

TAB & WCAP, how the funds are used:

The biggest bonus of the money donated by TAB – and not just for WCAP, for all its beneficiaries – continues to be the fact the funds are discretionary, which means they can be used where needed, unlike government monies that come with strings.

In addition to prevention education, a primary focus, WCAP specifically uses a considerable chunk of TAB money to assist with nutritional support; to contract with bi-lingual Spanish speakers to do outreach work in the Hispanic community; and to translate documents into Spanish for monolingual clients.

TAB money also helps pay for supplement care for purchasing medications that are not on the ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) formulary; paying insurance premiums; and covering high co-pays for HIV medications.

TAB’s generosity also provides client assistance with clothing, vitamins, utilities, transportation to medical care, participation in the client retreats, training for staff to enable them to deliver services appropriately, and to purchase computer equipment.

WCAP recognizes the fact that many donors may not like the thought of their money paying salaries, but if there is no one to decide how the money is spent, write the checks, and tend to the budget, organizations like WCAP would cease to exist. Federal funding sources tend to be restrictive and cover little or none of a nonprofit’s administrative costs.

WCAP & Colorado Health Network:

The mission of Colorado Health Network, now the parent company of WCAP, is to equitably meet the evolving needs of people affected by HIV and other health conditions through prevention, care and advocacy.

In 2011, four previously independent regional AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs): Denver Colorado AIDS Project, Northern Colorado AIDS Project, Southern Colorado AIDS Project and Western Colorado AIDS Project merged to become Colorado Health Network (CHN). Each regional office has retained its name and identity, but all now operate under the umbrella of the new consolidated organization.

The mergers have enabled CHN to work more efficiently by combining financial systems, information technology, human resources management, and other operational functions.

For 35 years, the mission of CHN has been to provide supportive and safety net services to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. As HIV/AIDS has changed over the past three decades, so too have the demographics and needs of people living with HIV/AIDS. In response to this new and evolving reality, the Board of Directors voted to expand the mission of CHN in 2016 to include other health conditions to reflect the expansion of services including prevention programs.

The focus of these prevention programs is to prevent new HIV infections. By helping clients to achieve an undetectable viral load and working to prevent new diagnoses of HIV, CHN’s programs are reducing the spread of HIV and improving the quality of life for PLWH (People Living With HIV/AIDS).

Last fiscal year, CHN provided statewide program services to a total of 5,257 clients. CHN’s prevention programs provided HIV and HCV testing, syringe exchange through its Syringe Access Program and also educated more than 7,500 people at high risk of contracting HIV and other disease.

In May 2018, long-time AIDS advocate and leader of Western Colorado AIDS Project and close friend of TAB, Jeff Basinger died. Basinger was a member of WCAP during the 1990s working in prevention and education. In 2008, he moved to Fort Collins where he served as the Executive Director of the Northern Colorado AIDS Project. Basinger returned to Grand Junction shortly following WCAP’s merger with CHN.

In fall 2018, Misty Aaberg was selected as Basinger’s replacement, serving as the current Director of Regional Projects for the Western Slope office.

Darrell Vigil, a member of the merger negotiation team, was selected to lead CHN as its CEO following the merger.

The following podcast faturing Aaberg and Vigill reveals interesting and important information about WCAP, CHN and TAB’s role in advancing the nonprofits’ goals.

About Darrell J. Vigil, Chief Executive Officer, CHN:

Darrell Vigil of CHN.

Darrell Vigil has served in  the job of CEO, directing the statewide organization known as the Colorado Health Network since July 2012. Prior to that, he worked in executive leadership at OMNI Institute, a local not-for-profit social science research organization and at Bibliographical Center for Research, a nonprofit research services organization.

From 2013 to 2015, Vigill served on Governor Hickenlooper’s HIV/AIDS Care and Prevention Coalition. He is currently on Denver Mayor Hancock’s GLBT Commission.

About Misty AAberg, MS,CEAP, CPS II, Director of Regional Programs, Western Colorado for WCAP:

Misty Aaberg of WCAP

Misty Aaberg joined the Colorado Health Network as the Director of Regional Programs in September of 2018. Her responsibilities include overseeing program services, personnel, financial management and community relations for the Western Colorado Health Network.

Prior to joining WCHN, Aaberg spent about a decade working in criminal justice for the 14th Judicial District. She then joined Omni Institute for several years working as a Regional Prevention Consultant, serving several northwestern counties in Colorado by providing substance abuse prevention education, board development training, and leadership coaching.

Aaberg’s volunteer work includes crisis intervention with juveniles, victims of domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

TAB, beyond WCAP to the other beneficiaries:


Brother Jeff’s Community Health Initiative:

Straight out of the Five Points District in Denver, Brother Jeff began his fight to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS in his community almost two decades ago, in 2000.

“Everyone saw the destructive impact youth violence was having on African Americans. However, few noticed the impact of HIV disease. The silent killer was ravishing African Americans.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in African American communities remains a public health crisis. While African Americans represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they continue to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV/AIDS—from infection with HIV to death with AIDS.

Brother Jeff’s Community Health Initiative (BJCHI) is a leading resource in dealing with African American HIV cases in Colorado and throughout the U.S. The nonprofit has even made inroads on the African continent. None of this would have been possible without a partnership with the Telluride AIDS Benefit and the Telluride community.

TAB funding has allowed Brother Jeff to hire HIV-positive individuals as speakers, peer role models and outreach workers. In a community where stigma, distrust, fear, and alienation are common, these courageous individuals bridge the gaps of isolation, care, and acceptance.

African American faith institutions play a vital role in the perception and dissemination of information. TAB funding has also helped develop HIV ministries and interfaith collaborations. Numerous churches and faith institutions call on Brother Jeff to speak with their congregations and assist them in developing programs. Throughout the process, myths such as the common notion that HIV can be spread through baptismal waters are dispelled.

BJCHI reaches thousands of people each year through HIV conferences, summits, workshops, presentations at high schools, universities, and at various health-related institutions.

HIV prevention is vital. However, funding for HIV prevention is limited. TAB funds allow Brother Jeff the flexibility to distribute prevention messages and materials in a way that reaches his target community. The Initiative is also able to provide temporary housing, transportation, food, financial assistance, counseling, testing and referrals at its discretion. Through TAB funding BJCHI has the ability to use its knowledge of the African American community to meet needs immediately.

The influence of the nonprofits does end there however. Brother Jeff’s organization hosts its own award-winning news outlet, keeping HIV/AIDS, gun violence, mental health and other tough issues front and center

Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program (CHIP):

CHIP began providing specialized care for HIV+ children in the Rocky Mountain region in 1991. And CHIP remains the only entity in the region providing comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered services to infants, children, youth (13-24), pregnant women and parents of HIV-infected children.

As a National Institutes of Health-funded Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group (PACTG) site, CHIP has participated in national and local research trials for pediatric HIV infections since 1992 and now ranks among the top performers in the network.

CHIP’s staff includes highly-trained, committed professionals with years of experience in delivering high-quality HIV care and prevention, more than half of whom have been providing HIV care for over 10 years. Medical providers include physicians certified in pediatric and internal medicine, infectious diseases, adolescent and pediatric general medicine, obstetrics/gynecology and nurse practitioners with expertise in family practice, pediatrics, and midwifery. CHIP has several licensed clinical social workers with particular expertise in serving at-risk youth, families, and pregnant women.

University of Colorado Hospital Fund at St. Mary’s, Grand Junction CO:

Not far from Telluride there are 22 counties of Western Colorado, (surrounding Grand Junction) with over 500 individuals living with HIV and AIDS. Those patients have one major healthcare lifeline – St. Mary’s. Providing the latest in primary care specializing in HIV and AIDS, this program won’t ever quit in its mission of expanding and innovating to rival the best treatment centers in the world.

The need for the clinic was identified in 1998, but the care center launched in January 2000 with a grant received from Ryan White, Part C.

The clinic embodies the mission statements of St. Mary’s Hospital and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to provide access and high-quality care to its patient base, which includes the poor and vulnerable, through collaboration with HIV experts from the leading state academic hospital in Denver.

Red Ribbon Avon, CO:

The Red Ribbon Project (RRP) started in 1996 with the goal of building HIV/AIDS awareness in the Eagle County community. As the organization evolved, the outreach expanded to include HIV/AIDS prevention strategies targeting youth.

RRP impacts youth with powerful, strengths-based programs that inspire self-confidence and healthy decision-making.

For 21 years, RRP has provided Youth Skills Building classes, free HIV testing, and educational resources to the Eagle County community.

Moab Free Health Clinic, Moab, Utah:

STDs do not discriminate. Anyone of any age, gender, or background can get one. In an effort to keep the Moab community healthy and informed, the Moab Free Health Clinic offers confidential HIV/STD (HIV, Hepatitis C, Chlamydia, Gonnorhea) testing.

The Moab Free Health Clinic (MFHC) is a non-profit, community-supported safety net clinic established in direct response to our community’s need for access to affordable healthcare.

TAB in Africa:

The world continually shrinks through telecommunications and tragedies and countries become communities like Telluride with different constituencies, but similar challenges. AIDS is one problem we all share.

Yes, still.

The Telluride AIDS Benefit is a model nonprofit: the organization asks for very little in monetary support from the greater Telluride region, but puts Telluride on the world map in a good way: TAB’s welcomed embrace extends all the way to Africa.

TAB’s African outreach began in 1999, when the nonprofit teamed up with the African Mayors Initiative for Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level (AMICAALL) and the United Nations Development Program in a pilot project utilizing a “sister city” approach to combating overwhelming odds.

Manzini Youth Care Project:

AIDS may be the worst health calamity since the Black Death of the Middle Ages, certainly one of the worst pandemics ever. And, according to online research, 10 of the 11 infections that take place every minute around the globe occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, where in some countries teachers, doctors and nurses are dying faster than they can be replaced and treatment ranges from poor to nonexistent.

The Manzini Youth Project was started as a community service initiative by the boys of the Salesian Secondary School in Manzini, in response to the growing numbers of street children in Swaziland. Children were taken off the street and housed in the disused mortuary rooms of St Teresa’s mission, with the primary intention of re-integrating them into their families. With the Salesian community of Don Bosco in Manzini, Father Larry McDonnell assembled a local community committee to establish the shelter.

Over the years, the Manzini Youth Care Project has provided accommodation, food, shelter, education, training and life skills to hundreds of marginalized, orphaned, abandoned and homeless young people at risk through poverty.

Manzini is expanding clinic services as it continues educating about HIV and AIDS in Swaziland, a location with the highest prevalence rate of HIV in the world.

Ethiopian Family Fund, Addis Ababa:

Ethiopia is the fourth poorest nation in the world. However, unlike many African countries, Ethiopians, who divide among Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox Christian, peacefully co-exist. Given the rampant poverty and wholesale lack of education, HIV risk is high and medications are very limited. According to UN estimates, about 3 million Ethiopians have been exposed to the AIDS virus, with over 600,000 children made orphans and one-third of Ethiopia’s hospital beds used by carriers of the disease.

In the West, AIDS may be ubiquitous, but it is also manageable. In the developing world, however, the AIDS crisis remains muzzled and the disease regarded as something mysterious, a stigma or punishment for some unnamed and unnameable wrongdoing. Though campaigns in Africa have been implemented, their effect has been token. New medicines that have been effective in the West for containing HIV are very costly and virtually unavailable to African AIDS patients. In Ethiopia, much like in Manzini and the rest of Africa, people are fighting what appears to be a losing battle against the epidemic.

Inspired by Telluride Mountainfilm regular Dr. Rick Hodes, his sister-in-law Marla became executive director of the Ethiopian Family Fund (EFF) after a visit to the country in 2006.

Today the Ethiopian Family Fund not only supports mothers and their children by providing medical care, shelter and food, also offering skills training and small business financial backing to create a path toward sustainability. EFF embraces cultural respect and understanding, allowing everyone to adapt to the needs of the local population.


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