One night, in 1989, when HIV/AIDS was still thought of as a white, gay man’s disease, 13 women met together for a potluck to support each other and share experiences. They began calling themselves “BABES with AIDS”. The name was a way to acknowledge the difference from white men living with the disease. As they met each week, more and more women joined them and they soon discovered that the issues they faced, such as domestic violence, fear of losing custody of their kids, the need for childcare, medical care by providers who understood women’s needs, dual or multiple diagnoses to name a few–were never addressed in the AIDS service system.
Like we always do, the women of Seattle, Washington felt empowered to create their own organization of support, advocacy, outreach and education for women with HIV. Through many battles and ups and downs to keep the organization afloat and to help as many women as possible, the organization was blessed to become a part of the YWCA in March of 2005. Now, with government funding and being backed by a support system that reaches out to women of all ages and races, BABES has flourished and is very successful in Seattle.
The YWCA, in itself, has a long-standing reputation of being a beacon of hope and love for women in every community around the U.S. BABES is now a huge part of the support that the YWCA provides for the Seattle community. Some of the programs BABES offers are:
- Peer Counseling
- Support Groups
- Self-Advocacy Training
- BABES Talking (a newsletter)
- Educational Forums
BABES definitely believes in spreading the word about getting tested and taking care of your sexual health. They’ve launched an ad campaign that’s spread all over the Seattle area to encourage women to get tested and know their status. See one of their bus ads below:
The BABES Network definitely shares our mission of educating and empowering women to take charge of this disease and stop the spread. They have transformed from just a group of women wanting to support each other and listen to each other’s frustrations, to a powerful network backed by the YWCA, that’s changing lives in the Seattle area.
Check out their website: www.babesnetwork.org to see more about this fantastic support network, read stories of the women who have benefited, and see how you can help. The BABES Network also has a Facebook and Twitter page. (yay social media!)