EVEN AS IT ENTERS its twentieth year, the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry still occupies an important -- and underserved -- niche in the state.
''We're really the only group in Northern Virginia that focuses its prevention education on young people,'' says Amy Falk Sheldon, director of development and community outreach at NOVAM.
The 18-member-staff, and other volunteers at NOVAM, work to produce educational workshops and presentations about HIV and AIDS in public schools, private schools and faith communities.
''A lot of workshops that we do in schools are broad-based,'' Sheldon says. ''We bring in a health educator who teaches HIV 101, and then we also bring an HIV positive speaker to talk about how the disease has affected their lives.''
NOVAM is not affiliated with any particular faith.
''The 'ministry' portion of our name comes from our history,'' says Sheldon. ''When we were founded 20 years ago, we were founded by a diverse group of faith communities that wanted to have a compassionate response to the AIDS crisis, but we are really an independent [not-for-profit], and we do get a lot support from a variety of faith communities, but we do not affiliate with any particular faith traditions.''
According to Sheldon, NOVAM reaches about 26,000 kids per year and offers services to approximately 200 children every year who are in families affected by HIV and AIDS.
''We're so excited to be a part of Capital Pride this year, because it's our opportunity to really reach out to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning community,'' says Sheldon. ''We recognize that HIV and AIDS affect communities beyond the LGBT community, but we know that the GLBTQ community has been a really strong ally in the work that we do, and we hope to keep that tide really strong.''
For more information call 703-533-5505 or visit www.novam.org.