My name is Eddie Eagle, executive director of Making a Daily Effort (M.A.D.E.).
I’m writing to tell you this: When you give to the M.A.D.E. prevention services of Chicago (Making A Daily Effort), you are saving lives.
A young man in his early 20s tested HIV-positive earlier this year, at a testing site supported in part by AFC. He was one of about 37 individuals to be diagnosed with HIV through an innovative partnership between AFC and Making a Daily Effort (M.A.D.E), a community-based organization where I work as a testing counselor on the South Side of Chicago.
Like most of my clients, this young man was devastated and scared to learn of his HIV infection. His mind raced with questions and uncertainties. What does it mean? Is this a death sentence? What will happen to me if others find out? What does this mean for my partner who has not yet been tested?
I was able to talk him through it, calm him down a bit. I drove him to Provident Hospital to begin the process of linking him to the clinical care he will need to begin medical management of his HIV disease. A few days later, his partner tested HIV-negative.
I don’t doubt for a second that we saved his life.
In Englewood and in other at-risk neighborhoods in Chicago, people with HIV/AIDS die from stigma. They don’t get tested, and they don’t seek out the care they need. And if you don’t meet people where they’re at, you lose them.
Bridging the Gap
Enter the Bridge Project, a special partnership with AFC (AIDS Foundation of Chicago) that has resulted in more than 4,600 people being tested for HIV since last summer in mostly African-American South Side communities. Because of this partnership — and because of your support — we are testing people and linking them to lifesaving care.
We are reaching out to a forgotten community. But we need your help to sustain and expand this vibrant public health project.
The Bridge Project is a public-private collaborative of AFC, the state Department of Human Services, Gilead Sciences and community-based groups, such as M.A.D.E. This unique program offers HIV regulation and management in public aid offices. As people wait in line for food stamps and other public assistance benefits, they are offered voluntary and routine HIV services.
Three South Side nonprofits — M.A.D.E., Beyond Care and Brothers Health Collective — test people and connect them to care as needed. AFC funds, coordinates and evaluates the project.
AFC invests in hundreds of organizations like M.A.D.E., large and small, in all parts of Chicago and throughout Illinois.
The Bridge Project has set up shop in three of the public aid offices, all of which are intended to serve South Side neighborhoods with high levels of HIV/STI, poverty, crime, unemployment and substance use: West Englewood, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Avalon Park, South Shore, Washington Park, Greater Grand Crossing and Woodlawn.
In the three predominantly African-American communities that M.A.D.E serves through this project, the average HIV infection rate is significantly higher than the Chicago rate and more than double the national average.
We believe in our abilities to change lives for the better through The Bridge Project, a special partnership with AFC that has resulted in more than 4,600 people being tested for HIV since last summer in mostly African-American South Side communities, and faith in a higher power. We're an all-inclusive organization. This is to say, we don't turn away anyone who may need our help or those who just want to take part in all we offer. Rich and poor, old and young, sinner and saint, people of all races, creeds, and colors, even people of other faiths, you're all welcome here. Come see what we have to offer you.
We offer worship services daily and a wide variety of ministries that help create a community of followers marked by unwavering faith and unconditional love. Our uplifting services feature messages that are valuable to life.
Check out our morning worship for a rich blend of traditional and contemporary music or our evening service for high-energy, contemporary worship. Learn more about us through our Get Connected Events and visit one of our Adult Enrichment Classes. Student and children's ministries are vibrant and growing. You'll find a home with us here.
We’ve been extraordinarily successful. We’ve exceeded our testing goal by 50% and have diagnosed 37 people as HIV-positive — evidence of unmet need in these communities.
Our success has largely been a result of building relationships with people as they walk into the public aid offices. We know all the major players of the neighborhood, from the preachers to the club owners. You can’t connect with a community if you’re not part of a community.
But we need your help to improve the Bridge Project. For example, our site at Englewood would greatly benefit from a full-time Spanish-speaking testing counselor to better serve clients with limited English proficiency.
We’ve learned to do a lot with a little. But the bottom line is we need more funding to sustain and expand this program, and to make it feasible for more people to benefit from the HIV testing and healthcare they need and deserve.
Committing to Change
The Bridge Project has become personal for all of us involved.
Fighting AIDS first became personal for me in the late 1990s. At the time, I was working as a custodian at an Illinois Department of Corrections facility. There was a guy in the system dying of AIDS.
I tried to just be there for him. I helped him write a letter to his mother and family. Because of that letter, they came and visited him in his final days. The last time I saw him, I offered to read him the Bible. But he didn’t want that. He wanted a cigarette.
I got him a cigarette and started to leave. On my way out of the room, he said, “Eddie, thank you.” Within minutes, a nurse told me that he died. He never did smoke that cigarette.
Watching people take their last breaths because of AIDS — it does something to you. It made me dedicate my life to this cause.
Please show your support for innovative grassroots HIV prevention efforts such as ours by giving generously to Making A Daily Effort. With your help, we can ensure more people gain access to knowledge, medical care and prevention as a result of HIV regulation services in their community. What you do today will make a difference in someone’s life which in turn will make you feel good. Make A Daily Effort to feel good today.
Executive Director, Making a Daily Effort