Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor



TPAN to celebrate '30 Years of Hope'
by Molly Sprayregen

This article shared 530 times since Wed Sep 20, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

On Sept. 28, Test Positive Awareness Network, or TPAN, will celebrate 30 years of supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS. Merrill Kenna, the organization's director of development, spoke with Windy City Times about the celebration as well as the organization's past, present and hopes for the future.

TPAN, which began as a grassroots movement, was founded by Chris Clason in 1987 to provide information and support for those with HIV/AIDS. Thirty years ago, there were very few organizations that offered services, and because there was no medication available to help those with HIV/AIDS, Kenna said there was "no real hope."

Then TPAN came along to support those in Chicago who could not find support anywhere else. What began as a meeting in Clason's living room is now a full-fledged organization co-located with Howard Brown Health, providing mental-health counseling, case management, housing assistance, medical care and more. All of TPAN's services are also free.

The fact that TPAN shares a space with Howard Brown is a huge advantage. Clients can come in to receive services from both organizations at once, and beyond that, they rely on each other's expertise to provide full-fledged support of their clients. "A youth can come in off the street and get all their mental health and stabilizing needs met like housing and transportation and food from us and then can go down the hallway and see their primary physician," Kenna explained.

Beyond that, they are able to support each other in more dire situations. "We've had a lot of crises, where someone gets tested positive at Howard Brown and becomes suicidal," said Kenna. "So Howard Brown then refers them to TPAN, and we have licensed clinical staff here and can immediately go down and do crisis intervention, so it's a really great relationship."

Kenna feels that one of TPAN's greatest accomplishments has been its ability to remain true to its roots as a grassroots movement. "We don't talk about ourselves a lot," he said, "We just do the work."

Among some of TPAN's most recent achievements is a grant for $2.5 million that will help the organization focus specifically on helping both African-American youth and African-American men over 30 years old.

Recently, TPAN also opened a youth center ( at ), where youth are invited to come and do laundry, use computers, obtain snacks and toiletries, and relax. "Here they can find a safe place, a warm place, and a place that's welcoming," Kenna said.

One large facet of TPAN's mission is empowerment. Kenna explained that the organization never wants to make decisions for its clients, but rather help them feel confident in making decisions for themselves.

"We don't tell our clients what they need to do," he said. "We work with them in helping them to determine what needs to be done." He emphasized that TPAN is a sex-positive, judgment-free place where anyone can come for help, support and services.

The 30th-anniversary celebration, of which Kenna is in charge, will take place at Moonlight Studios in Chicago. Between 300 and 400 people are expected. Throughout the evening, the organization's founding members will be honored, along with a very special group of women who the organization refers to as 'angels.'

"During the early days of HIV there were no medications," Kenna explained, "And [the angels] provided things like massages, and they did yoga, and they hugged somebody. Many people were afraid to even touch someone with HIV."

Peter Staley, an HIV/AIDS activist who has been involved in the fight from the very beginning, will be the keynote speaker. At the event, TPAN will also be creating its own memorial quilt to hopefully add to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in Atlanta. "People who attend the event will have an opportunity to write something on the quilt about someone who was near and dear to them," said Kenna.

As TPAN looks toward the future, Kenna said a new challenge they will begin to tackle is the fact that many of those living with HIV/AIDS are getting older and dealing with their conditions in addition to the typical ailments associated with aging.

Something Kenna emphasized is still at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS: battling the stigma associated with those who have been diagnosed. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic first began, he explained, there was so much fear around those with a positive diagnosis, even in the gay community. People refused to touch those with HIV/AIDS and, sometimes, they were not even allowed to receive visitors to their hospital rooms. While some of that fear has been alleviated, Kenna does not want the community to forget that it definitely still exists and still must be resisted.

"I do think that end point of stigma and discrimination is really important," he said, "That we recognize it still exists 30 years later."

TPAN is working to fight against this stigma with education and raising awareness, and of course through continued support of its clients.

Test Positive Aware Network will commemorate its 30th anniversary with a celebration event on Thursday, Sept. 28. "TPAN 30 Years of Hope" will be held at Moonlight Studios, 1446 W. Kinzie St. The event will begin with a VIP reception at 6-7 p.m., allowing supporters to meet and greet with TPAN's founding members. The general reception will begin at 7 p.m. and feature a tribute to TPAN's founders, an open bar, hors d'oeuvres and music from Marc "DJ Moose" Moder.

Peter Staley—an early member of ACT UP, the New York-based direct action activism group—will address the crowd. Staley was featured prominently in the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague. Admission is $125-$175 each; visit .

This article shared 530 times since Wed Sep 20, 2017
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

HRC Foundation launches national HIV/AIDS campaign
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation announced the launch of "My Body, My Health," a comprehensive public education campaign that works toward building a generation free of HIV/AIDS and stigma. ...

Gay News

Cost-free breast-health testing offered to hospitality workers
The Illinois Restaurant Association announced a new partnership with A Silver Lining Foundation to provide uninsured hospitality employees with respectful and equal access to cost-free breast-health testing through a network ...

Gay News

WORLD Poland march, Google's donation, Ireland incidents, True Colors
In Poland, thousands marched through central Warsaw on June 19 in an "Equality Parade" demanding an end to discrimination against the LGBT community—amid what campaigners said has been a rising tide of homophobia in the country ...

Gay News

HIV/AIDS AFC, Getting to Zero award $350K in grants
AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) joined Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) in announcing the grant recipients for the first-ever Getting to Zero Illinois Community Grant Program—a pool of grants totaling $350,000. ...

Gay News

Report: Major corporations celebrating Pride month also funding Fox' anti-LGBTQ+ programming
--From a press release - WASHINGTON, DC — According to a new report from Media Matters for America, a nonprofit media watchdog, major corporations that are publicly celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month are also simultaneously advertising on Fox News, funding the network's ...

Gay News

Morten Group celebrates 20th anniversary with "Forging Innovation in Racial Equity (FIRE) Grant"
--From a press release - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Applications are now open for Morten Group, LLC's Forging Innovation in Racial Equity (FIRE) Grant and will close at 12midnight CST on March 15, 2021. Eligible 501(c)3 entities are based in the ...

Gay News

Queer Berwyn Collective holds march, rally
On June 8, the Queer Berwyn Collective held a march and rally. According to a pre-event press release, the group discussed "why Ald. [Scott] Lennon's exclusionary flags that call June 'Gay' Pride Month are problematic," adding ...

Gay News

Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame seeks members for selection committee
The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, celebrating its 30th anniversary, invited the LGBTQ+ community to nominate individuals, organizations, businesses, and allies for the 2021 Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame and the response was tremendous. The Chicago ...

Gay News

Wade to receive Field Foundation leadership grant
Activist LaSaia Wade, who founded the LGBTQ-centered advocacy Brave Space Alliance (BSA), and is currently its executive director, has been named one of Chicago-based Field Foundation's 2021 Leaders for a New Chicago cohort. The distinction, f ...

Gay News

Pritzker Military Museum to hold panel on Department of Defense and transgender employees
--From a press release - CHICAGO, June 8, 2021 — The Pritzker Military Museum & Library is proud to present a panel discussion, "Exploring the Intersection of the U.S. Military and the LGBTQ Community," on Wednesday, June 23rd at Noon CDT ...

Gay News

New book sets the record straight on Act Up New York
Novelist, playwright, nonfiction writer, journalist, screenwriter, LGBTQ+-rights activist and AIDS historian Sarah Schuman preserves the power of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) while laying everything out about ...

Gay News

New Broadway Youth Center being readied for 2021 opening
Work continues on Howard Brown Health's (Howard Brown) new 20,000 square-foot Broadway Youth Center (BYC) facility at 1053 W. Irving Park Rd. BYC has spent years looking for a permanent home. After launching in Lake View, ...

Gay News

Howard Brown Health looks ahead to post-pandemic Chicago
As more Chicagoans get vaccinated against the COVID-19 infection, officials at Howard Brown Health (Howard Brown) are preparing their responses to a health landscape that will likely be much different from what it was before the ...

Gay News

When crime goes viral
Activists say Illinois's law that makes it illegal to expose others to HIV is racist and homophobic. Now they're close to changing it.
In early 2016, Jimmy Amutavi had what he considered a happy life. More ...

Gay News

HIV at 40: Erie Family Health Center, focused on helping at-risk communities
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects Black communities—with Black gay and bisexual Black men and Black trans women being the most affected population than any other group in the country. More specifically, one in two Black MSM (men who ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.