AFAN recently elected a new board president, Scott Washburn, who's dedicated to make 2017 the biggest year for AFAN yet. Washburn's abundance of passion for and experience with AFAN makes him a great person to speak to on what’s coming up for the non-profit and the amazing work they continue to do in the community.
He's been involved with AFAN for about 18 years and remembers attending one of the earlier Black & White Parties where guests had to bring in a bag of groceries to get a ticket! After witnessing the outstanding services the AFAN staff has provided for clients and their families throughout the years, Washburn knew he wanted to lend his time and energy to the charity. For several years, Washburn has been the top fundraiser at AFAN events and with his event company, Event Consultants Global, he has helped to provide venues and entertainment for some of AFAN’s annual events.
Washburn is estatic to start his new role and head the fight to get rid of the stigma that is typically associated with a HIV positive diagnosis, or even the anxiety of getting tested. He's finds it important to educate people on the real AFAN outside of the fun events, as well as work hand in hand with other AIDS’HIV service agencies in Nevada to make a bigger impact.
QLife: Where are you from?
Scott: I was born and raised in a small town of 70 people in Nebraska.
QLife: When and why did you start getting involved with AFAN?
Scott: I first became aware of AFAN when moving to Vegas 18 years ago and attended a Black and White Party. That was back when you brought a bag of groceries for your ticket. The following years, the company I worked for started helping with the Black and White party by helping provide entertainment. I really was impressed by all of the things AFAN really did for so many. I became more and more involved over the years and served on the board previously until terming out a couple years ago.
QLife: What most excites you most about working with AFAN & the contribution you can make?
Scott: The outstanding service that the staff of AFAN provides for the clients and client’s family excite me the most. Their devotion to their jobs and the passion for the clients is so impressive to me. When someone is diagnosed as positive, their life changes instantly. You feel alone, sad, angry, depressed, hopeless, helpless and more. Every possible feeling of emotion hits you like a freight train. It is like nothing else and you really don’t know where to turn. The stigma that comes with being HIV positive makes it even harder. Even your friends and family take a step back and not sure what to say to you when you tell them or even trying to decide how to tell them. So many people do not understand it.
AFAN makes this life changing event much easier to handle with the specially trained staff. Free, confidential, rapid testing is now offered on site at the AFAN offices. If the test results are positive, they immediately help guide you in the right direction by referring you to the right medical professional to start medical treatment. If you do not have the resources or insurance they will help you access financial assistance that is available. That along with nutritional guidance, counseling, education, emergency assistance with housing, utilities, food vouchers, medication and so much more, they are there to get you on the right path of a happy, healthy lifestyle. AFAN not only there to help people who are infected, but are there for the families that are affected by HIV. You are not alone thanks to them.
I want to help get rid of the stigma of an HIV Positive Diagnosis or even the anxiety of getting tested. I want to encourage everyone to get tested as many people are living with HIV, but do not know it, or are afraid of the possible outcome of the tests. This is not good for anyone. It’s so much faster and easier to get tested now. I want people to know all of the great things that AFAN does beside a real fun Black and White Party and the AIDS Walk. Education on prevention is so important and our education specialists are amazing. The more people know, the better. I want to continue working hand in hand with the other AIDS/HIV Service Agencies in Nevada as we are much stronger working together.
Ideally, I look forward to the day when organizations like AFAN are no longer needed and there is a cure out there. That is a day that cannot come soon enough in my opinion. Some great strides have been made, but until them, they are very much needed. The pending change in the Affordable Care Act is also a bit scary as no one is sure what that will do to insurance options and access to affordable care.
I will never forget the first Holiday Gift Giving event I attended where AFAN provided a party for the children of our clients. Holiday gift lists were fulfilled by AFAN Donors. A grandmother came up to me and gave me the biggest hug of my life and with tears in her eyes told me this will be the first holiday her grandchildren will get gifts as their mother is not able to work due to her health and all money goes to paying rent and buying food. That hug changed my life. I will never forget it.
QLife: Why you are excited to be the president of the AFAN board.
Scott: I am excited and honored to be the President of the AFAN Board of Trustees and continue seeing the great results of the service and guidance provided to so many in need by the AFAN Staff. I want everyone to know what AFAN is all about and to encourage people to get tested and know their status. Knowledge is so important in prevention of the spreading of HIV. But also let everyone know that they are not alone and have a place to turn to in the time of need. As the tag line says,
Together we can make a difference. I want to be a part of that.