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Local non-profit aims to enhance health, wellness in black communities

Three organizations are coming together for the purpose of one mission, to enhance the health and wellness of black communities in Indiana.

Chris Douglas, managing director of C.H. Douglas & Gray Wealth Management, Jasmine Black, MPH, executive director at BU Wellness Network, and Sylvia Thomas of Step-Up, Inc. joined us Thursday on “Life.Style.Live!” to discuss their partnership. Here’s more from them:

BU Wellness Network is a local non-profit founded in 1999 whose mission is to enhance the health and wellness of black communities in Indiana. We largely do this work under three pillars: HIV Prevention services, supportive services for people living with HIV, and nutrition services to address food-related health disparities.  

What makes BU Wellness Network different from other organizations?  

I would say that the intention and design of BU Wellness Network is what makes it so different from other organizations. BU Wellness Network is a black-led and black-serving organization. Though we serve all people, our programming is designed to best serve the needs of black people in our community to address health disparities while combating systemic racism.  

Why Is this work important for the community in Indianapolis?

Our work is important because it seeks to provide a holistic approach to addressing the HIV epidemic. When seeking to serve black people, especially those that are also LGBTQ, we cannot prevent HIV without engaging in conversations and actions that dismantle historically racist systems and processes that brought us to this point in the epidemic today. Though black people account for about 22% of the Indianapolis population, on average we annually account for over 42% of new HIV diagnoses. These cases are a result of social factors that drive diseases in the black community such as: poverty, education quality, access to quality medical care, housing, food access, and contact with criminal justice systems to name a few. The variety of services offered at BU Wellness Network provide education, combat stigma, increase access to prevention and care options, while ultimately seeking to serve the needs of the community.

How can people get involved or support BU Wellness Network?

BU Wellness Network cannot do the work that we do without the support of people in our community. Someone may show support to the organization by choosing to become a loyal donor, a Volunteer, and of course sharing our work with your network of friends, family, and colleagues. Check us out on social media, we’re on Facebook, Instagram @BUindianapolis and on Youtube @ BU Wellness Network. 

About Step Up:

Step Up is a non-profit that has been serving Indiana for over 20 years. Our focus is to provide prevention, education, and support services for HIV, STD, and Hepatitis C. It is important for individuals to know their status. If we happen to find someone living with HIV or Hep C, we have resources available through our HIV Services and Hep Link teams. And last, but not least, we have our Re-Entry services where we work directly with people who are incarcerated and recently released from incarceration to provide them assistance they may need. 

What makes Step-Up different from other organizations?

At Step Up, we are dedicated to stepping up, pun intended, to reduce barriers that prevent people from receiving prevention and support services. For this to be effective, we meet clients and communities of focus directly in their community rather than having them come to us. This creates a more welcoming and comforting environment for communities of focus and reinforces our mission that everyone deserves care. 

Why Is this work important for the community in Indianapolis? 

There is an important and rich history around HIV in Indiana, that is very close to the LGBTQ+ community. In Indiana, we’re seeing higher rates of HIV, STD, and HEP C cases. So it’s important for us to work with other organizations so we can reduce barriers to care. Not every organization is equipped to handle giving someone an HIV diagnosis or know what to do once you’re given a diagnosis. Receiving an HIV diagnosis has been extremely stigmatized by our culture and society. The expertise we provide demands a lot of labor from our staff that not everyone can do. Not only are we providing care, but we work hard to give our community members a lot of hope. So, our organization really does the work to help unlearn that stigma so we can be a society with more acceptance and understanding. 

How can people get involved or support Step Up? 

There are many ways to get involved with Step Up. One of the easiest ways someone can do their part for the community is to come in and get tested. Everyone needs to get tested for HIV, STDs, and HEP C at least once in their life, so come to Step Up, you’ll have a great experience. 

We are also selling tickets to our annual Halloween fundraiser, the Boos and Brews Halloween bash which will take place on October 28th. Stay tuned on our social media to see how you can purchase tickets. Tomorrow, we are a sponsor for Orgullo Latinx which is the final Indy Pride event. Monetary donations are always welcome, and individuals can volunteer with us through our website stepupin.org. We appreciate any and all support. 

For more information click here and visit the links and social media pages below:

buwellness.org

stepupin.org

Facebook, Instagram and TikTok: @stepupindy

THIS SEGMENT IS SPONSORED BY C.H. DOUGLAS & GRAY WEALTH MANAGEMENT.