On April 25, Pizza Luce diners at Eden Prairie and Hopkins and restaurants across the state will order spending as much money as possible. At least, that's what Pizza Luce CEO JJ Haywood anticipates.
"They want to make sure their check is high," he said. "Eating out for life is a super busy night."
The 25th annual fundraiser for Dining Out for Life will be held at restaurants throughout Minnesota as part of an international event to raise funds for HIV research and care. Local restaurants will donate a portion of their evening sales to The Aliveness Project, a Minnesota-based organization that offers HIV testing, access to health care, food assistance and organizes a variety of community events. Last year, the event raised $ 243,186 from 148 restaurants and nearly 40,000 diners, according to the Dining Out for Life website.
The nine Pizza Luce locations will participate this year, donating 35 percent of sales at The Aliveness restaurant. Haywood estimated that the local restaurant chain has participated for 11 or 12 years and is the largest contributor to fundraising in Minnesota.
"It used to be, when we started working with The Aliveness Project, there were not so many participating restaurants, so there was a line at the door" of people who wanted to contribute, he recalled. "It's a good positive vibes."
Several Pizza Luce employees, whom Haywood said are part of the LGBTQ community, were recently featured at the cover of lavender magazine To highlight the restaurant's participation in fundraising. Pizza Luce makes donations to other fundraisers throughout the year, including those that contribute to issues such as immigrant rights and animal welfare. He said that with LGBTQ people in the staff and families, friends and guests who may be affected by HIV, contribute to the Aliveness Project feel like a reward to the community.
"That is a group of people who have a great need," Haywood added. "We believe it is important to give visibility to all the members of our community."
Dylan Boyer is the event coordinator for The Aliveness Project and said the fundraising helps raise awareness about the evolutionary nature of HIV. The Aliveness Project began in 1985 as a group of men who were dying of AIDS and came together to cohabit with older people to mourn and support each other, Boyer said.
Now, with advances in medical treatments such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP) that helps people without HIV to avoid infection, and the 2017 announcement from the Center for Disease Control that people who they treat the infection successfully they can not transmit HIV to their partners (also known as "undetectable is non-transmissible"), the implications of receiving a positive test result have changed.
"Now people are not dying of AIDS, they are living a life full of HIV," said Boyer, who is open about his status as HIV positive.
the Reports from the Minnesota Department of Health that as of December 31, 2017, 8,789 Minnesotans were living with HIV or AIDS. Thirty-five percent live in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, which are the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin (except Minneapolis), Ramsey (except Saint Paul), Scott and Washington.
The place where a person lives and their socio-economic status largely determines their access to HIV care, said Paul Skrbec of JustUs Health. JustUs was created in 2018 as a collaboration between the Minnesota AIDS Project, the Rainbow Health Initiative and Training to Serve, and works to prevent the spread of HIV and educate, advocate and support people at risk or affected by HIV .
"For the most part, our access to care within the metropolitan area of the seven counties is pretty good," said Skrbec.
One disparity that JustUs addresses is the awareness gap between Minneapolis and St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs. According to Skrbec, educating healthcare providers about informed care about trauma, gender and sexual identity helps reduce the stigma surrounding HIV and allows doctors to better serve the LGBTQ community that continues to be affected disproportionate to HIV.
"Care providers that are in tune with that can provide better care," he said.
In addition, the face of HIV has changed since the 1980s, said Boyer, which primarily affects white gay men to people of color, trans people and people living below the poverty line.
"HIV is still here, it's not something that happened in the 80s," he said. "How do we change our services to serve those communities?"