During the 1980’s, the disease known as HIV/AIDS became prevalent in our society. Knowledge of HIV was in its infancy, and we struggled to understand the severity and the impact it would have. Over time, HIV/AIDS fell from media prominence as successful treatments were developed. Many began to regard it as just another chronic illness. In spite of advancements, individuals with HIV/AIDS often feel isolated, stigmatized and are reluctant to seek the treatments they need.
For twenty-five years, the Northern Colorado AIDS Project (NCAP) has been advocating for, and providing services to those with HIV/AIDS in a mostly rural, eight-county area of northern Colorado. In 2010, our caseload included 204 clients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which represents about 50% of the reported cases in our service area.
NCAP strives to reach all those living with this life-threatening disease in this remote section of Northern Colorado. We do this through key community partnerships, counseling, prevention and educational programs and affordable care and case management.
A world free from the stigma, discrimination and health disparities for those infected with, and affected by, or at risk for HIV/AIDS.
The mission of the Northern Colorado AIDS Project is to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS and to help reduce the spread and stigma of the disease.
NCAP was founded in 1986 to address the needs of a new and growing epidemic. In its early years, NCAP focused on providing emotional and social support for people at the end stage of their lives. We advocate for clients to receive access to appropriate health care. As the disease spread and treatment options developed, NCAP expanded to include a broader geographic area and became an integrated service delivery system. Ryan White funding was first awarded to NCAP in 1990 for medical case management of HIV/AIDS.
The work we do is entirely unduplicated. As the only AIDS service organization in Northern Colorado, NCAP serves eight counties that encompass nearly 16,000 square miles -- an area roughly equivalent in size to West Virginia. We serve the following counties: Larimer, Weld, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma, Morgan, Logan and Phillips. Our HIV testing reveals a positive rate that compares with other urban and rural parts of Colorado. Our geographic service area stretches from the foothills of the Front Range eastward to the open prairie of the six frontier counties. The region’s scattered, small towns have traditional values and ethics that often conflict with an understanding of HIV/AIDS, its transmission, and related risk factors. Our clients and their families face loneliness, isolation and a lack of social support.
Distance is also a barrier in access to care. Although there are infectious disease specialists in our service delivery area, HIV-specialty care is not available for most of our clients who utilize Medicaid or the Colorado Indigent Care Program. For some clients this means an 8-hour round trip to access medical treatment at the Beacon Clinic in Boulder or the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Aurora.
Our clients have many faces. They represent some of the most marginalized and stigmatized individuals in society today. In 2010 fifty-five percent of our clients live at or below the federal poverty standard. Ninety-five percent of our clients qualify for low-income assistance programs.
Kim (not her real name) is an example of how we help entire families reach goals successfully, despite the hardships associated with a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. Two years ago, Kim came to NCAP as a homeless 25 year-old single mother of two. She acknowledged being dependent on street drugs and had no medical insurance or resources.
Kim learned of her own HIV infection only after her child was diagnosed with an opportunistic infection that indicated she had AIDS. The news prompted her to move from urban California to rural Colorado to be near relatives for support. She learned about NCAP through our outreach program.
She is now enrolled in the Colorado Indigent Care Program and uses NCAP transportation services to see HIV-specialists at the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program (CHIP) in Aurora – the nearest available care for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. NCAP connected her to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) which provides live-saving medications to Kim and her child.
Through the assistance of NCAP, Kim has made vast improvements in her own and her child’s life. She keeps regular appointments with her case manager, and is now drug-free with support from our in-house counseling program. Her health and home are stable, and she is continuing her education towards college certification. “NCAP literally saved my life,” she says.
Stories like Kim’s are not unusual. An annual survey consistently shows that nearly 86% of our clients report being satisfied or highly satisfied with our programs and services.
NCAP offers comprehensive assistance. Our programs and services include HIV testing, prevention counseling, medical case management and mental health care.
In 2006, NCAP was recognized by the Colorado State House of Representatives for our commitment and service. Additionally our successful programs have been featured presentations at the Boston School of Social Work National Conference on HIV/AIDS 2008-2011, the Rural Centers for AIDS Prevention National Conference 2010-2011, and The US Conference on AIDS 2010.
Our Community Partners:
NCAP cannot do this work alone. In addition to our many volunteers, supporters and donors, we collaborate with: The Larimer County Health District, Food Bank of Larimer County, Salud Family Health Centers, Rocky Mountain CARES, Rural Solutions, Larimer Center for Mental Health, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, Weld County Health Department, the Northeast Health Departments in Sterling and Fort Morgan, Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Center, Larimer and Weld County Department of Corrections, Turning Point for Youth, the Beacon Clinic in Boulder, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Aurora, and the Murphy Center.
In 2010 NCAP successfully piloted the Northern Colorado Collaborative Care Clinic. With volunteer HIV specialists from Rocky Mountain CARES in Denver and free medical space at Salud Family Health Center in Fort Collins we have been able to get over 25 high need clients into care and treatment.
NCAP continues to partner with the Colorado AIDS Project in Denver, the Southern Colorado AIDS Project in Colorado Springs and the Western Colorado AIDS Project in Grand Junction to sustain HIV/AIDS care and prevention services across greater Colorado.