Who is Life Foundation?
The New Year is going to bring a big and exciting change to our two organizations. First a bit of history. In 1989, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health started a pilot syringe exchange project in response to the growing AIDS epidemic. The first Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) was set up in Honolulu and operated by members of Life Foundation’s staff.
In 1993, the Community Health Outreach Work Project (The CHOW Project) was established to expand the SEP statewide to meet the growing demand. The CHOW Project was one of the first programs in the US to be both statewide and fully state-funded, showing Hawaii’s dedication to stopping HIV transmission through exchanged needles.
We are both proud of our shared history, and even prouder that because of our work, Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of HIV transmission through shared needles in the country, as well as one of the lowest rates of pediatric cases.
The CHOW Project has grown far beyond a needle exchange program. With a mission to support the optimal health and well-being of people affected by drug use throughout Hawai‘i, The CHOW Project serves 2,000 individuals each year through its harm reduction programs, and has become a leader in policy and state-level discussions on drug use, homelessness, and health.
With our shared missions, and history, a slow remerging of our two organizations has been underway. In 2009, The CHOW Project began sharing office space with Life Foundation, and our staff now work closely together to provide a more holistic approach to caring for our clients. Our two organizations worked together on the 2017 Honolulu AIDS Walk, and walked together at this year’s Pride Parade.
As you may have heard, Paul is retiring at the end of 2017 after serving as Life Foundation’s executive director for 25 years. In early 2018, Life Foundation and The CHOW Project will merge together into one organization, led by The CHOW Project’s current Executive Director, Heather Lusk, who has been working in the field of HIV for 24 years. Our goal in this merger is to expand our services and provide better care to those living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk of contracting the disease. None of our current programs are going away and 100% of our current clients will remain in our care. We are leveraging this opportunity to grow, be better, and help even more people in need.
In the spring of 2018 we will be officially announcing the merger, along with our new name and mission statement. We thank you for coming with us on this journey, and will keep in touch in the months to come.
As we continue in our twenty-seventh year walking to fight the spread of HIV in Hawai`i and the Pacific, the restructuring and merging of our organization will allow us to increase our efforts on expanding services and programs to our community. We look forward to walking with you at the annual Honolulu AIDS Walk.
If you have any questions about the Life Foundation; would like to receive a free HIV test; o be linked into care services, please call us at (808) 521-2437 or visit the Life Foundation website at www.lifefoundation.org for more info.