Chattanooga Cares’ new executive director is dedicated to ensuring that the agency continues to be the central resource for HIV/AIDS clients and their families in the greater Chattanooga Area.
After 25 years of working in the private sector in real estate and business, David Brock has taken the helm of Chattanooga Cares, the organization whose mission is education, prevention and support for all people affected by HIV/AIDS. Brock holds a master’s in counseling and was previously the board chair of the organization. He wants Chattanooga Cares to be a “well-run” nonprofit organization that serves clients and benefits the community at large, while at the same time remaining responsible to contributors.
Recently, Brock and Jessica Plank, Chattanooga Cares community relations manager, spoke with “O&AN” regarding the current state of HIV/AIDS in Chattanooga and the future of their organization.
O&AN: What is the current impact of HIV/AIDS in the Greater Chattanooga Area?
Brock: Different populations are affected now, with the highest number of new cases being African Americans. We are seeing a decrease in the number of substance abusers testing positive, and the number of MSM (men who sleep with men) has stabilized.
O&AN: How is Chattanooga Cares responding to the current need?
Brock: We are working hard to reach out to communities affected by HIV/AIDS by doing more public relations in the Black Community. Recently we ran an ad in the Chattanooga Courier (a local African American newspaper). It is our goal to continue deconstructing the myth that HIV/AIDS is a gay, white male disease and help all people understand the importance of testing and education. As a result, we’ve seen a huge response in the number of people calling for information as well as the number of individuals coming in for testing.
O&AN: Once someone has tested positive, what services does Chattanooga Cares provide?
Brock: We provide case management and have counselors on call. Often we are able to assist people in finding housing and referrals to other social service agencies. Chattanooga Cares also has a fully staffed primary care clinic on site where we provide HIV/AIDS related care as well as primary care to our clients and their families.
O&AN: Mr. Brock, how will Chattanooga Cares be different under your leadership?
Brock: Our services will be expanded to provide care to all persons affected by HIV/AIDS. We will not only be working with the client, but the client’s family. Anyone in the household can now get medical services and counseling at our facility.
We are working on providing more training to our staff, and adding new support groups. In September, we will initiate a support group for pregnant women with HIV as well as a women’s group. In the near future we hope to host a men’s group and a friends and family group.
O&AN: What are some of the challenges that Chattanooga Cares has faced that you look forward to tackling?
Brock: I want to expand the client base and make Hepatitis C and B training available to clients and staff. In the next 30 days, our Hepatitis testing service will begin. I want the organization to be funded solidly.
With the recent changes in TennCare, we have learned how to provide services with limited resources. I want to expand our resources by raising more money and getting the message out about what we do.
I will continue to work to de-stigmatize HIV and run the organization like a responsible business.
O&AN: What are some of the organization’s traditions that you plan to continue or strengthen under your leadership?
Brock: I am excited about all of the opportunities that are on the horizon. I want to make sure that we continue to be the resource for HIV/AIDS services in the area. We will continue our large community-wide activities like the Strides of March and Cut up for Life. Chattanooga Cares will continue to provide excellent service to our clients and meet their needs. We will always keep the focus on them because that’s why we’re here.
Visit Chattanooga Cares online at www.chattanoogacares.org or call their AIDS Hotline at 800-960-AIDS.