DEAR MORSS, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?

September 2010. When Lane Olson returned my call I almost didn’t recognize his voice. He sounded strained and raspy. I told him I heard he was fired about the theft. I asked how he was doing, and what happened? Olson said that he well, and was researching and talking with his lawyer and other community members, while also getting ready to start a new group with Vince Collins, another past staff member (and one of the Letter Writers talked about further in this post) from AFAN. Lane explained to me that on September 8th he was terminated from AFAN for gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds, and that he didn’t do anything that deserved this reason for his termination. Olson felt that it was retaliation by Morss who wanted him gone, and to ruin his reputation in the HIV community.

On the day Olson was fired, he was asked by Cira Jones and Jared Hafen to come to Jennifer Morss office. Olson walked into Morss office and it was Jared Hafen, Cira Jones and Jennifer Morss with Linda Mckay (AFAN’s HR person) was on the phone. The reason Lynda Mckay was on the phone was because she lived in Phoenix and worked for HR Solutions, the same company that AFAN’s Board President Patrica Farley Saavedra, as owner and was paid by AFAN for her companies HR services.

AFAN Staff

Cira Jones,  Jared Hafen,  and Jennifer Morrs.

Olson was to sign some papers which would be admitting his guilt to the accusations of misconduct and misappropriate of funds, and was offering a lump sum payment of $3,616 dollars, “Severance” pay upon his agreement for signing to the terms of their Release and Waiver form.  Olson was in shock, and while Lyndy McKay was explaining to Olson why he was being fired, he snapped out of the shock and refused to sign anything because he didn’t understand what was going on. Olson didn’t understand why would someone being fired for “Stealing” would be given a severance pay?  His point raised a lot a questions for me for as well.

Olson was open about his HIV status, and so when he was terminated for gross misconduct and misappropriate of funds, Jennifer Morss and Patricia Farley – Saavedra knew he would not qualify for his continued coverage called Cobra insurance. This meant he would not receive coverage for his HIV medications and medical care.

Olson explained that Jennifer Morss also submitted a letter to unemployment asking them not to award Olson his rightful compensation. Why would any agency go to such lengths, especially an AIDS organization do this to someone who is living with AIDS, to take away any person’s ability to get their Life saving medications?

So while the three reasons listed on Olson’s termination papers did occur, all of them were directions from upper management and they occurred over a 2 ½ year period and yet Olson  never received any sort of reprimand because of the fact that he was not fully responsible for the acts.

Olson explained that two years prior that he and 11 other staffers wrote letters to the Executive Board with concerns about Morss’s unprofessional and unethical behavior. Olson, Hadley and Hafen met with the Board president and vice president and shared their concerns for the Agency and the direction it was going with Jennifer Morss at the helm. Because he was protected under the whistle blower act I’m guessing that this Morss’s way to finally getting rid of him.

I asked if he had any copies of those letters from the rest of the staff, so we met in person and he let view and copy all the letters some with names and many without because of the fear they had of Jennifer Morss.   As I read through them and I was in complete shock and disgusted by the claims of a Morss’s behavior.  Copies and References from the letters that were submitted regarding Morss’s behavior are listed below.

AFAN Staff letter to Board 1, AFAN Staff letter to Board 2, AFAN Staff letter to Board 3, AFAN Staff letter to Board 4, AFAN Staff letter to Board 5, AFAN Staff letter to Board 6, AFAN Staff letter to Board 7. And later another letter AFAN SEP 2010.

afan staff letters on morss

Copies of 7 of 11 Staff’s letters to the Board regarding Morss’s outrageous behavior.

  • Mentions of high Staff turn over,  with an atmosphere of fear created by Morss and always questioned staff “Are you with AFAN or are you against AFAN” One new staff member was told by a Holly Hoffman the then finance director at AFAN that when “Jenn says jump. We jump!”
  • Morss would not allow staff to host going away parties for staff that were being let go or were leaving for other employment. They all would be walked off property because Morss viewed each of them as a “liability.” 
  • Morss had divulged to the rest staff that Holly Hoffman the Finance Director who didn’t show up to work was “mentally ill” and that this employee had other “family members suffered from this same mental health issues.”
  • Morss was angered when a staff member contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The staffer had spoken to Morss previously about a mold problem in the building, even showed her pictures. But Morss did nothing about the mold problem, until OSHA put pressure on her to do test to make sure there was no “Black mold” in any of the offices. Morss never had any concern for the HIV+ staff or the clients they served who have compromised immune systems who came in for services.
  • Morss had place a “Secret Nanny Spy Cam Alarm Clock” in the executives office area.  A staff had noticed the product was billed on the companies credit card statement along with a sum of $1,800 unaccounted for.
  • Morss was upset or mad with another AIDS Organization like Golden Rainbow and other local AIDS service organization which provides clients with emergency financial assistance.…all because Morss had a personal beef with Eric Flaming the previous Executive Director of Golden Rainbow. Morss would tell the Programs & Operations Director Fabian Mera to not allow the case managers refer clients to these agencies. It seems Morss didn’t care if clients were evicted from their residence or even go without electricity during the hottest summer days. Why would she do that HIV+ people who she was supposed to be working for?
  • That Morss had begun belittling a receptionist named Liliana Vasques after Vasques became pregnant through a process called Vitro, the same process that Jennifer Morss herself was going through. Morss had found out that this second attempt to get pregnant did not work. When Morss heard Vasques was pregnant and with twins, Morss was more than upset, she was furious at Vasques making all kinds of racial slurs and comments to other Staffers. Morss’s mistreatment toward Vasques was witness by many of the staff during her pregnancy, some of the abuse came in email or could be heard down the hallway behind closed doors, with Morss screaming and yelling at Vasques in private meetings. This treatment was done repeatedly over the course of 8 months, Morss even made Vaques carry heavy boxes, take out the Office trash to the dumpster during Vaques high risk pregnancy with twins. Morss had repeatedly pressured Vasques to resign until finally Morss fired her just a couple weeks before Vasques gave birth to her twins. Leaving Vasques in medical debt after denying her Cobra insurance coverage.
  • Another AFAN staff member named Chris Medina (letter writer) who was fired a few months after the employee letters were sent to the Board of Trustee’s, shortly after AFAN conducted a Audit due to all the allegations against Jennifer Morss AFAN’s Executive Director. Patricia Farley Saavedra over saw the audit and produce all the documents for the Auditors to examine. That sounds incredibly suspicious.  Of course the end result was Morss got to keep her position as Executive Director and the Board had Morss fire Fabian Mera the Associate Director at the time. Well Chris Medina won his case and got a large settlement against Jennifer Morss and AFAN for his wrongful termination.

So after Chris Medina won his lawsuit a couple of AFAN’s board members had left. Morss even kicked off one of the Board of Trustee’s, Assemblyman David Parks. David Parks was never notified about the changes in the by-laws and was kicked of the AFAN Board of trustees, seems crazy… well Mr. Parks was not a fan of Morss (he had voted to remove her as Executive Director) after the staff’s letter writing and “$20,000 audit”  due to the employees letters.

DAVID PARKS COMMENT OF FACEBOOK REGARDING AFAN

A comment made by David Parks on Facebook in 2011 regarding how he was forced off AFAN’s Board after 24 years of service.

And when the Board President Jack Kim left, guess who was placed as Board President? It was Morss good friend Patricia Farley Saavedra, with her Human Resources consult company who worked for AFAN. Something I though was very odd. I asked Olson how did Patricia Farley Saavedra get involved at AFAN? He said that Patricia Farley Saavedra had met Jennifer Morss at their kids school and became friends, and soon after Patricia Farley was hired as the HR Company for AFAN and placed on AFAN’s Board of Trustees.

Then shortly after Olson was fired on September 8th, it was found that there was a real theft committed by Jared Hafen the Associate Director under Jennifer Morss the Executive Director.  But what was with the Official AFAN letter with a statement about a theft committed by “two employees who were terminated?”

What’s been confirmed by AFAN staffer members (many of which left AFAN) was that about a week after Olson’s termination an auditor found client paperwork that wasn’t signed. Cira Jones (Finance Director) had it taken to the Case manager Erika Franco, thinking that Franco had forgotten to sign off on it.  When it was presented to Franco, she did a double take and said she didn’t know who this client was, that she didn’t do this paperwork and that she couldn’t sign off on this paperwork.  When the discovery of the “fake clients” money was going to assist clients that didn’t exist but had files on record prompted an investigation.  And it was discovered that the fake client’s assistance was really paying Jared Hafen’s (Associate Director at AFAN) bills with AFAN’s checks.

By September 17th more information came out about the theft that was reported in the news perpetrated by AFAN’s Associate Director Jared Hafen, who worked right under Jennifer Morss. The Associate Director admitted to having stolen gift cards and using funds to pay for personal expenses. There was no mention of Lane Olson being involved.

DEAR AFAN CLIENTS highlighted

A highlighted copy of Patricia Farley Saavedra’s letter to Client’s

AFAN Board President Patricia Farley Saavedra was interviewed by Channel News 3 September 17th 2010, and the same document I saw at AFAN’s offices was displayed again showing that “Employees were terminated.”  Patricia Farley Saavedra still intended to affiliate Olson with the real theft by Jared Hafen, which discredited Olson among the HIV community. Who would listen to Oslon story about what really happen behind the doors of AFAN if the whole community thought he was a thief?  Other clients I knew who weren’t regulars to AFAN’s social programs believed that Olson was the either a part of or orchestrated the theft. If Morss and Saavedra had planned to ruin Olson’s reputation it was working.

 

Talking with Olson I found out that Jared had visited him a couple months after this all transpired and wanted to apologize to Olson.  Hafen told Olson that he was sorry for all the trouble and didn’t know why he did what he did…that it was stressful working for Morss and he wanted to move to Seattle or Portland, but Morss had threatened him, he didn’t go into detail, but had said that Jennifer Morss and Fabian Mera taught him how to make fake clients. If what Hafen said was true, wouldn’t it be easy to conclude that Morss and Mera may have been doing the same thing? And since the Warrent/Summons for Hafen wasn’t issued until December 20th 2010, it gave Morss and Farley-Saavedra 3 months to possible work out a deal with Hafen to lessen the charges if he didn’t squeal on Morss.

I wanted to so something to help Olson and change the problems I saw at AFAN, but I had no idea what to do. I remembered that a Client at the Hung in Vegas event mentioned starting a petition, so I got a hold of him. He had already created a letter to the Board and had almost 140 signatures from other clients and volunteers who were vocal about their outrage over Olson’s termination, including the lack of assistance from the Agency itself. We met up to talk more. I read the petition and added my name.

During his next visit to AFAN the Cleint said he was pulled aside by a staffer Andrew Evanski who Morss had sent to relay a message to him, which was for the Client to stop asking people to read his petition, and to stop collecting signatures. The Client had no idea how Morss even knew we was collecting signatures for a petition.

I kept  in touch with Olson. By September 27th 2010 he retained Richard Segerblom a Lawyer. The lawyer sent a letter to AFAN Executive Director Jennifer Morss, which Richard Segerblom points out Morss’s blatant unethical and immoral behavior regarding Olson’s termination.

LAWYER 01

Letter from Lawyer to Morss/AFAN, page 1.

LAWYER 02

Letter from Lawyer to Morss/AFAN, page 2.

“in hopes that AFAN will change its position in light of the facts”

That the accusation by an employer of gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds is a serious issue that when an “employee has engaged in such conduct” they “must be terminated” “immediately” and yet AFAN  “fails to take such action..”

That it had been “known for months of the alleged improprieties” , “The failure to act belies the assertion”

“its a blatant contradiction to assert that an employee was fired for gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds and at the same time offer them $3,616.oo in wages”

“underlying Mr. Olson’s termination” in an attempt to link him to “the misdeeds of Jared Hafen” when “…there is no such link”

“Finally, if it were not so tragic I would find it ironic that a non-profit agency founded to alleviate the pain and suffering experience by HIV-positive individuals would falsify the reasons for one of its own employee’s termination so that you could deny that employee health insurance. What the hell were you thinking?

Lane Olson had done so much for other clients and the Las Vegas community. Yet Morss had done something so heinous to Olson and the members of the board, lead by AFAN’s Board President allowed it all to happen. Why? What was Morss thinking? What was the board thinking? Why would the Board President back up unethical acts that Morss was committing? What kind of people are they?

I couldn’t believe what was happening to Olson. After everything I had read, I believed he wasn’t guilty of these allegations. That in reality Patricia Farley Saavedra used these separate incidences just to have a reason to fire him because he was one of the many staff members who wrote letters that got Morss investigated for her unprofessional and unethical behavior. And then to make matters worse Morss and Saavedra then plotted to connected Olson to the real theft that occurred at AFAN by Jared Hafen. Supposedly Hafen was not the only one involved, but was used as a fall guy to stop any further investigation into the mater of “fake clients” at AFAN. All this was done just so that community members would not believe Olson about what was really happening behind the doors of AFAN. I was just blown away at how crazy things were at AFAN behind the scenes, that this was the kind of organization I was completely dependent on for my own HIV medications and care. Not to mention the thousands of other HIV positive clients in Southern Nevada.

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HUNG OUT TO DRY IN VEGAS

I wanted to make the best of a very uncomfortable situation.  I would go to my appointments at Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) on time, fill out all the paper work, and just keep to myself.  Always signing a Zero Tolerance Policy that stated that as a client I may lose services for the reasons they had listed.  And with a HUGE copy of that policy hanging on the wall of everyone’s office, no matter how polite the staff was in during my intake it was a big deterrent for me to open up and really talk or complain to the staff about any kind of healthcare problems I needed help with.

Microsoft Word - ZeroTolerancePolicy2011.doc

Zero Tolerance Policy for clients

It wasn’t until 2010 when Sybrina Bernabei started to work at AFAN that enabled me to be less stress with my visits to AFAN, and start being comfortable in having more of a dialogue with the staff.  I had met Bernabei in back in 2008 during her time working at the Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada when she was the HIV prevention coordinator of the Vegas Mpowerment Project.  Also a member of non-profit group that raised money for people with HIV/AIDS called the Sin Sity Sisters,  I felt that Bernabei was someone I could confined in about anything about my HIV status and healthcare. Bernabie asked if I would be interested in volunteering at AFAN.  She showed me around AFAN’s offices, introduced me to much of the other staff  like Jared Hafen.

We even visited Jennifer Morss at her office.  Bernabei introduced me to Morss, who was seated at her desk at the end of a very long room. Bernabei wanted Morss to know about the previous times I had volunteered with her, but Morss seemed rather irritated with my presents in her office.  My first thought was that she knew it was me who sent that letter asking that she stop supporting the Canyon Ridge Christian Church.  And she must have quickly associated my name after Bernabei had introduced us. Morss just sat their, growing more and more irritated until Bernabei suggested that we visit the other part of AFAN.

banner one

Jennifer Morss

After Bernabei took me to AFAN’s Education Department which was a separate section of AFAN. A large space with lots of tables, seating, computers, resources, a small kitchen, some small offices, and lots of people.  All of which were clients.  All this time there was the space for programs and for clients to socialize  just down that hall from the AFAN’s main lobby.  Why didn’t anyone tell me about this before?  Bernabie introduced me to the Education Department staff Lane Olson (the supervisor), Jim Foley, and Meckell Milburn.  A volunteer named of Alex asked me about taking part in the art program he help host at AFAN (started by Olson and another volunteer named Cook).  It was mostly a social program for clients to do art, crafts, and make holiday cards and decorations for AFAN’s upcoming events.

 

25471_387573654266_1705551_n 25471_387573674266_1013588_n 25471_387575804266_6072684_nAfter that day things had drastically changed for me.  In the Education Department I had great support, having other people with HIV, and I looked forward to coming to AFAN.  But back in the main offices, the staff seemed a bit less friendly.  Aside from them now always wearing business attire my appointments started feeling like going to a Bank.  The office staff were always busy and I kept asking about applying for other assistance like to see a dentist, and for my eyes.  But the staff would say that unfortunately at that time they just didn’t have the funds for those programs.  Later I found out that all they needed to do is a referral to another agency so I could see a dentist or get new much needed glasses. My family was finally able to help with pay for my two cracked wisdom teeth to be removed. Without their help I don’t know where I’d be now.

It was in May 16th or 17th, 2010 during a visit to Bernabei’s office when I felt a need to tell her that as a client how uncomfortable I was that AFAN was supporting the Canyon Ridge Christian Church (CRCC), which cause me a lot of anguish with coming to AFAN.  I was concerned about AFAN’s Zero Tolerance Policy for clients, because it specified that if I conducted any type libel offense against AFAN, I would loose my services from them.  Especially with the huge posters of the policy in every office, it felt like if I had even the slightest disagreement with a staff member that I could be punished. Bernabei told me that she had heard the same concerns from other clients. And that the next chance she had she would talk to her boss about it since Morss.

On May 19th, 2010 I found out on my visited to AFAN that Sybrina Bernabei had been fired.  Outside of the building that house AFAN by the smoking area I saw a group of other clients and I came over to say hi.  They were talking about how one of them over heard Morss telling some of the staff there was no longer a “Back-to-work Coordinator position needed” since there were “no funds.”  So Sabrina was gone, and something about all didn’t make any sense.

Later that day I called Bernabei since I still had her cell number. She told me that the day after we spoke that Jennifer Morss came into Bernabei’s office to discuss something.  Bernabei used the opportunity to explained to Morss that clients were coming to her upset about the changes being made, especially with the Zero Tolerance Policy. Bernabei said that Morss didn’t seem interested in talking further with her. The next day Bernabei arrived to work to find that  Jared Hafen was awaiting for her to escort her off property.

My guess is Morss doesn’t like employees to express themselves.Talking with other clients I found out that this was something Morss had done with other staff members. Morss would get rid of them, ruin their reputations so they would hang out to dry with no or little hope of gaining employment in the same field. I just kept my thoughts to myself.

My visits to the Education Department grew more frequent. It was near the end of August of 2010, Lane Olson brought up that AFAN was looking for submissions for an upcoming art exhibit called “Hung In Vegas” which featured HIV/AIDS themed visual art that upcoming September 8th or 9th. I was interested and submitted some art. I also offered to volunteer for the night of the event and I got the Olson’s mobile number so I could get a hold of him if any issues came up.When I arrived at the event I saw one of the other staffers from the Education Department standing with some of the clients that came out for the event. They all look upset. I asked where was the event coordinator Lane? Everyone explained to me that the Olson had been let go. A client interjected that “he [Olson] was fired and it was bullshit.” another client said they were going to start a petition to the board of AFAN.

DEAR AFAN CLIENTS highlighted

Letter from AFAN Board President to client’s.

A few days later I had an appointment at the Wellness Center a clinic for HIV+ people, located on the second floor above AFAN. I bumped into Meckell from AFAN’s Education Department on my way to the elevator. She looked sad, even scared. I gave her a hug and asked if everything was alright. She said “No. There’s somethings going on.” and quickly headed off. Instead of going in the elevator I walked into AFAN’s lobby to see if any other clients were around. Next to the entrance in the lobby was a stack of notices for clients. Normally notices would be placed up on the community board. I picked one up and read it over. It was an announcement by AFAN Board President Patricia Farley Saavedra. It was a statement that there was a theft and that “Employees were terminated recently.” “Morss caught the incident in the nick of time.” It also pointed out that the amount stolen was low. I suppose that part was mentioned to reassure clients that this incident wouldn’t affect funds for their services at AFAN. My fist thought was Lane Olson was fired because he stole money from AFAN?

The letter left a lot of unanswered questions. Was it Lane Olson? Who was the other staff member? We’re the two of them in cahoots together?  Were they arrested?  Why weren’t their cops at AFAN right now investigating this? Why wasn’t there anything on the news about this?  This seemed like a HUGE deal. I headed up to the Wellness Center to catch my appointment.

After my check up I headed home and remembered I still had the Lane’s mobile number.  I figured I’d call him to find out what was going on.  He didn’t pick up so I left a message asking that he call me back. I called another two times the next day. Finally I got a call back from Olson three days later.

 

NEXT POST COMING SOON>>

 

KILL THE GAYS BILL

CanyonRidgeSsempa

image taken from boxturtlebulletin.com

In late 2009, while talking with a group of friends someone brought up the that they had read about a Kill the Gays Bill in Uganda.  A pastor named Martin Ssempa was pushing for a law to imprison gays and even sentence those with HIV/AIDS to death for having sex. And that the Canyon Ridge Christian Church (CRCC) was providing financial support to the pastor for this Bill. Instantly chills had ran up my back and a sick feeling in my stomach. I had remembered that the CRCC had a raised funds and sponsored a team to participate in the AIDSwalk for Aids for AIDS of Nevada. I wasn’t out about my HIV status, and I didn’t want to accidentally out myself by saying anything so I didn’t add to the conversation. Later when I got home I looked up the story and found out it was all true.

Looking into it further when I came across comments posted on Facebook by the group the RED Ribbon Army and a few others by concerned community members posting on Aid For AIDS of Nevada fan-page asking for AFAN to condemn the Bill and to stop supporting the CRCC. I don’t remember seeing any responses by AFAN. I kept looking online to see what more information was available.

 

 

 

So AFAN had ties to the CRCC for almost a year while this bill worked its way through the Ugandan Legislature (which passed into law later in 2012). Sadly the CRCC stated they still supported Martin Ssempa, “continuing our conversations” with the pastor because the they “do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be.” CRCC Statement – released 6/27/2010

I couldn’t believe just how silent AFAN had been about everything. Since many of the blogs mention AFAN’s Director, Jennifer Morss, I wrote to her explaining simply that I was a client of AFAN and I urged that AFAN please no longer support the CRCC. I also sent a copy of my letter to AFAN’s office location that was addressed to AFAN’s Board since at the time I couldn’t find the Boards contact information on AFAN’s website. For a few days I regretted sending my letters only because I had heard from other clients that Morss played favorites with clients. That she would help get particular clients resources or connect them to services that were limited.  I was worried that down the line I would have problems with getting assistance with things I needed. But I just kept telling myself that sending that letter was more important. I didn’t receive a response.

t1largBy August of 2010 I started to see more and more horrific reports and news segments of the murders and corrective rapes against of gays and lesbians in Uganda. Finally on August 26th of 2010 Aid for AIDS Nevada issued a Statement that, “After evaluating Canyon Ridge Christian Church’s backing of Pastor Ssempa of Uganda and his support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we feel that it is in the best interest of our clients, supporters and staff to dissolve our relationship with the church immediately…”

imgres-4Shockingly Qvegas Magazine, a publication in Las Vegas, did an article on the relationship of AFAN with the CRCC. Kelly Smith, owner (at the time) of Qvegas Magazine was a friend and supporter of Morss. The publication featured an article on AFAN almost every month. Qvegas later remove or archive the article. However the Edge.com still has a copy of Qvegas’s article entitled, “AFAN Severs Ties with Local Church“.

4824_213239485112_482503_aIn the article Morss was said to be both “shocked and perplexed as to why Canyon Ridge was supporting Ssempa.”

We suspected AFAN was truly being used as a shield for what they were supporting in Uganda. It was like ’look at this great work that we’re doing with AFAN and pay attention to this pretty, sparkly thing but don’t look at what we’re actually doing in Uganda.'”

 

But yet despite the outrage the CRCC continues to provide financial assistance for Pastor Martin Ssempa’s work as the Turtle Box Bulletin points out in their article Las Vegas Church May Drop Support for Ugandan Anti-Gay Pastor . And even with Morss’s statement AFAN continues to accept money from the CRCC’s. (Something to take note of, the CRCC sponsored a team for AFAN’s AIDSwalk event in 20112012, and again in 2013 while still praising and funding Ssempa’s work in Uganda.)

After AFAN’s announcement made in August I kept looking for anything involving AFAN, the CRCC, and the Uganda Bill on a weekly basis when this blog post caught my attention.

“We must give thanks to AFAN for its swift response to our city’s shared outrage at Canyon Ridge’s continued support of a man we consider a human rights terrorist,” Derek L. Washington, chair of the Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada (SDCSN), sarcastically stated in the SDCSN blog in November, 2010.

The sdcsn.blogspot.com has since been taken down. But a copy of that statement by was saved here at ourownvoices.com. I took note of the blog post by Derek Washington since I remember meeting Derek in 2009 at a Anti-bully conference at UNLV called COME OUT. I even added him as a friend on Facebook at the time. There were many more comments that Derek had made about his view on Morss’s behavior on a few different blogs, but those comments were also later removed after Derek was offered to work at AFAN by Morss. (More about that soon)

I was was more concerned, freaked out actually about running into these church leaders and church members of the CRCC at AFAN. What if I bump into them when I came in for an appointment? Would the know I was a client? Would Morss share my letter with the CRCC? How/why would Morss accepted blood money from people like this? Why didn’t AFAN’s board intervene? What was being done to stop the bill from becoming law? What could I do about any of it?

It all seemed futile. And now the thought of going back again to AFAN had become almost tormenting. Terrified about something happening, anything happening during one of my next appointments there. Not being able to afford my life saving medications on my own I had no other choice but to keep going an organization that accepting money from a church that helped make it legal to put gays with HIV/AIDS in another country to death. People that were just like me.

 

READ NEXT POST >>

KEEP CALM AND TRUST NO ONE

It was the 4th of July, a three day weekend, 2008. I was sitting out on the front yard with my family trying so hard to just be there in that moment with them as the fireworks shot off. But I was a mess. That whole week I could hardly eat, and anything I was able to get down wanted to come right back up. I kept telling myself, “Monday. I’ll find out for sure on Monday. This will be all over then.” By Monday I had waited twelve days to get the blood results back about of my HIV test.

On June 26th I went in to a local center for a free HIV Test and Hepatitis vaccination. There was a counselor that guided me through the process. After filling out a series a questions she used the mouth swab to test for HIV Antibodies and then had me sit back down in the lobby. And after a few minutes she called me back into the room to sit down to tell me my results. She explained that the mouth swap came back with a positive result for HIV antibodies. The counselor did her best to assured me that everything was going to be alright, and that there could be a possibility that results could be a fluke. To be sure they took a blood sample to be tested. I would need visit their offices in person for the results, which would take only one week.

I know I had to wait a week but still I called the clinic everyday trying to get a hold of someone with my results. It was all I could think about. It wasn’t until twelve days later that someone was able to confirm that my results were ready. But I would need to come in person to the clinic to receive them.

When I arrived I was still holding out hope my results were a fluke,  I kept telling myself everything was gonna be fine. Alone with the counselor in her office she told me my results were positive, that I was HIV positive. She admitted that she had my results before July 4th, but she didn’t want to ruin my 4th of July weekend with “bad news.” I was in shock. I was so focused on trying to keep it together to even attempt to tell her what a terrible decision she made not telling me sooner.

The counselor set up an appointment for me to start the process of getting me into care. From the clinic where I received my results I was sent to see nurses at the Health District Office, then to a Social Worker at Clark County for insurance, then back to see the nurses about setting up an appointment to see a doctor with my new insurance, then to a organization called  Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) to see a case manager so I could apply for Ryan White Part A (RWPA) assistance, another case manager for Ryan White Part B (RWPB) assistance, then to see my doctor again at his office at the Wellness Center. And at every appointment, every intake I filled out form after form, and more forms. Disclosure forms, proof of residence, of my private information, copies of my blood work, all these papers were just constant reminders that this virus was in my body. That it was a part of me now and it wasn’t going anywhere.

Every nurse, social worker, and case manager at all these appointments would tell me repeatedly without fail that I should never Never EVER tell anyone my HIV status. Most of them repeated almost the same statement to me that; 

“Nevada is a right-to-work state, and because of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS that if I was able to get employed and my status was made known to my employer I could be fired or would be the first in line to be let go because I have a pre-existing condition…”

“People may refuse to rent to me because I am HIV positive…”

“You never know how your partner or even your own family will react…”

I had no idea just how much stigma was out there toward people with STD’s, especially HIV. Honestly I didn’t know just how the rest of my family would react or how they would treat me if they knew I had HIV. I felt pretty assured that these case workers and medical providers were here to help me, and I could tell that many were in this line of work for more than just a paycheck. They were earnest about helping others going through this process.

But I was also told by these very same people that my HIV status and all of my many medical records, client files, whatever document’s I had signed or had my name printed on was protected by law. Everything was confidential, unless I told someone, no one would ever know I had HIV. That there was no way that it could possibly happen. I was still very overwhelmed, and when you have so many medical professionals telling you the same thing you start to almost blindly believe anything they say. They all must know exactly what they’re talking about. In this regard I only have myself to blame for believing them all so full-hearted. They all offered the guidance and support I needed, but did any of them have any real power to protect my information? If any of these medical professionals outed me in public or shared my files, what was I suppose to do then? Well I found out the hard way.

 

Keep Calm and Trust No One. Even the very people who warned you to trust no one.

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