Author Archives: Christina Garofalo

  1. Fred Says Gives $50,000 to HIV+ Youth Organizations

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    The foundation will be making their largest gift ever, including $10,000 impact grants to organizations in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York city.

    (Chicago, IL) Fred Says, a non-profit organization that raises money to support HIV+ youth and at-risk populations, will be providing its largest donations to date.

    This year, the foundation will be gifting more than $50,000 across the United States to organizations supporting HIV+ youth, including (4) large ‘impact grants’ of $10,000 going to Test Positive Awareness Network and Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Callen-Lorde Health Center in New York City, and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

    “Four years ago I started Fred Says as a way of helping HIV+ youth stay healthy and achieve their full potential,” says founder, Dr. Rob Garofalo. “It is our pleasure to, in a small way, continue to help organizations fill gaps in services so young people will not only survive, but thrive.”

    The money is being gifted to provide fiscal support for services provided to HIV+ youth as well as for advocacy groups that help educate the public about the needs of young people at risk for HIV.

    The agencies who will be receiving gifts of $1,000 to $10,000 are:

    Advocates for Youth, Washington, D.C. to support their National Youth HIV/AIDS Day on April 10th, which raises awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on youth.
    Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago to support their Adolescent Medicine program, which treats pediatric HIV/AIDS patients.
    Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to continue supporting the emergency assistance program for youth impacted by HIV/AIDS.
    Callen-Lorde’s Health Outreach to Teens (HOTT), New York City, which targets homeless and unstably housed youth across New York City who are at risk of contracting HIV.
    Pridelines Youth Services, Miami will use their gift to continue their LGBTQ youth homeless services and prevention program.
    Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), Chicago to provide financial resources needed to lessen gaps in services not covered by current grants, including general operations.
    Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, Phoenix to provide fiscal support to help re-launch a medical transition program for HIV+ youth who are leaving pediatric care and entering adult care.
    Queer, Ill and Okay, Chicago to provide financial support for an exhibition featuring the works of queer youth artists who are living with HIV.

    To date, Fred Says has given more than $200,000 to the community through services and advocate groups related to HIV+ adolescents. This year, these gifts are more important than ever, as HIV funding is on the decline and essential programs are at risk of disappearing.

    “This amazing funding will be used to help support our adolescents and HIV+ young adults with issues that go beyond healthcare,” says Marvin Belzer, Director of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Belzer’s program used the funds for formal medical support as well as for the care of support animals for patients.

    “I recently assisted a client whose puppy, Bolt, a primary support in her life, was overdue for immunizations. It caused my client a lot of stress to manage her finances,” says a case manager within CHLA’s program working with HIV+ youth. “She was beyond excited and overly appreciative when we were able to provide the funds through Fred Says to assist Bolt’s vaccination schedule.”

    Fred Says announces its annual gifts every December in celebration of World AIDS month. This is the largest gift to date since its founding in 2012. This year’s awards would not be possible without the continual support of the Stonewall Sports League of Chicago, which donates proceeds of each season directly to the organization.

    Media Contact:
    Zach Stafford
    773 303 6069

    Fred Says is recognized by the federal government as a 501–C3 non-profit charitable organization. The mission of Fred Says is to create a self-sustaining charity that ensures that all HIV+ teenagers receive the care and services they need to lead healthy and productive lives Fred Says seeks to reduce the stigma associated with HIV that makes it difficult for young HIV+ people to access the care they deserve and to focus on their health and emotional well-being. To learn more visit:

  2. Robert Garofalo Named One of 16 HIV Advocates to Watch in 2016

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    We’re excited to share that our founder Robert Garofalo was named one of 16 HIV Advocates to Watch for 2016 by HIV Plus MagazineWe are so honored to have our organization mentioned alongside a list of truly inspiring activists from around the world.

    Here’s what writer and HIV activist Mark S. King, who compiles the list annually, had to say about our cause:

    When you visit the Twitter page for Robert Garofalo, it isn’t really a page about him. It’s all about his dog, Fred. And that is the first thing you need to know about Robert’s activism. The Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University has devoted his career to the care of HIV-positive adolescents and has done a fair amount of HIV prevention interventions for young men who have sex with men and young transgender women. But let’s get back to the dog.

    Robert founded Fred Says to raise money for agencies across the country that care for HIV-positive young people. “I wanted to do something that was personal and creative,” says Robert, “and that tapped into the gratitude I had for my dog, Fred, who quite literally saved my life after my own HIV diagnosis in 2010.”

    The photo essay project When Dogs Heal, launched in 2015, was the result. “Our hope was to change the narrative about HIV to be about love, hope, survival and thriving while living with HIV — all while giving credit to the healing powers of our pets,” says Robert. “Our hope in 2016 is to turn When Dogs Heal into a traveling art exhibit and to turn the project into a book, where the proceeds would support the charitable mission of Fred Says.”

    Charles Sanchez, the writer and star of the web series Merce, which features a lead character living with HIV, knows a little something about employing creative talents as an advocacy tool. “Sometimes a dog is more than just a man’s best friend, but also his best medicine,” says Charles. “Rob’s project has the potential to change people’s minds about what someone with HIV looks like. His work inspires me.”

    Have you experienced of the healing power of a dog’s love? We’d love to hear from you. Share Your Story to be featured on our website.

    Even $1 can make a difference in the life of an HIV-affected teen. Please consider making a donation to today.

  3. How This Dog Saved His Friend’s Life

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    Vashon Island Pet Protectors

    Image courtesy of Vashon Island Pet Protectors

    If you’ve ever seen the 1993 film Homeward Bound and, like me, balled their eyes out at the end when the Golden Retriever fell into a ditch and almost didn’t make it home, you will find this real-life story out of Vashon, Washington equally — if not more — moving.

    A few weeks ago, a dog was found alive a week after going missing — all thanks to her loyal friend who refused to leave her behind.

    Tillie the golden retriever and Phoebe the basset hound were out for a walk, when Phoebe fell into a cistern in a ravine several miles from home and was unable to climb back out. For days, their owners scoured the 37-mile island in search of the two missing dogs to no avail.

    That’s when they called Amy Carey, a volunteer with Vashon Island Pet Protectors, for help.

    “We had been out looking for about a week when we heard from a farmer here who noticed a reddish dog on his property,” Carey told The Dodo.

    Tillie had run to a nearby home and approached a man outside. When she got his attention, she turned around and ran back to the ravine.

    Carey decided to go check it out.

    “When I got there and looked down, Tillie saw me but didn’t come running up,” Carey said. “She just stayed near the edge of this cistern, pressed with her head as close as she could get. Had she run up, we might have never realized that Phoebe was down there. She just stayed put, making it so clear that I had to come to her so I would see her friend.”

    Luckily, both pups are home safe now. But it wouldn’t have been possible had Tillie not stayed by her friend’s side.

  4. Chicago Charity Turns Neglected Pit Bulls into Mentors

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    <i>Courtesy of Paws for Strength, The Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation</i>

    Image courtesy of Paws for Strength, The Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation


    Breaking the cycle of abuse is one of the greatest challenges for social workers and psychologists. But a new program set forth by Blackhawks player Bryan Bickell and wife Amanda is taking an unconventional approach — employing pit bulls.

    The Bickells’ program Paws for Strength pairs kids at Chicago’s Hephzibah House — a home for abused or neglected children and their families — with rescued pit bulls to create a positive and healing environment through the human-animal bond.

    Over the course of eight weeks, the children teach the dogs tricks, and play and bond with them. In addition to the time the time spent with the dogs, Amanda Bickell and other volunteers read stories to the children.

    After reading a story about one of Michael Vick’s abused pit bulls that was saved and now has a happy life with a new family, Amanda says one 8-year-old responded, “That’s hopefully my story.”

    Whether it’s giving these children hope for their futures or calming them in their present, the program shows promise for teaching kids that their past doesn’t have to determine their future.

    Paws for Strength is an offshoot of the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation, which aims to change the negative stigma associated with pit bulls, who — because of their reputation — are often subject to abuse or neglect.

    “We keep saying it’s not the dog, it’s the owner in the majority of circumstances,” Amanda told DNAinfo, Chicago. “It’s just like these children. They struggle with a lot of issues… because of the situations they were brought into.”

    For those interested in joining Paws for Strength with their pit bulls, visit the Bickells’ website to learn about the interview process.



  5. We’re Coming to Atlanta!

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    FredwalkThis weekend, we’re headed to Atlanta to shoot the final installment of When Dogs Heal.

    Out of U.S. cities, Atlanta has the fifth-highest rate of new HIV diagnoses, according to the Center for Disease Control.

    While other HIV hot spots, like New York and Washington D.C., have pushed for more aggressive testing initiatives, there is still an overwhelming number of people who are turning up in Atlanta emergency rooms with other injuries and illnesses and are being tested there for the first time.

    On average, it takes roughly eight to 10 years for untreated HIV to become AIDS; yet by the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one-third have advanced to clinical AIDS.

    Routine HIV testing is not offered in the places where most people get their health care.

    Wendy Armstrong, the director of the Ponce de Leon Center, an AIDS care facility in Atlanta, told WABE: “Our massive group out there who are not tested are folks out there who often don’t have primary care physicians because they’re young, and no insurance if they they did wish to have a primary care physician.”

    Stigma, extreme poverty, fear of a positive diagnosis, and even transportation are among the many factors that discourage people among this population from getting tested.

    The result: An estimated 14 percent of people with HIV or AIDS in the U.S. do not know they’re infected.  

    It’s time we changed that. And hopefully this weekend will be a start.

    We look forward to meeting new people and hearing their inspiring stories, and we hope to get people talking about HIV and inspire others to get out and get tested.

    If you or someone you know if from Atlanta and is interested in participating in the shoot, please contact us. Check out the details here.

  6. These Norwegian Dog Owners Drove Through 8 Countries to Save Their Dog’s Life

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    Picture: PA/Highcroft Veterinary Group

    Picture: PA/Highcroft Veterinary Group

    The Internet is flooded with incredible, moving stories about dogs who’ve run into burning buildings and gone to similar lengths to save the lives of their owners. In a recent story, Cathrine Sørlie and Nils Christian Nordahl of Norway did the same in return for their dog.

    The Norwegian couple made the trip from Oslo to Bristol so their dog, Pelle, could receive a life-saving operation for an intrahepatic portosystemic liver shunt. The condition, diagnosed when Pelle was just three months old, occurs when a blood vessel within the liver diverts the blood flow incorrectly.

    The procedure needed to correct the condition, though not invasive, requires intricate tools that no veterinarians in Norway had access to. Deemed inoperable, the couple’s only option was to manage Pelle’s condition before ultimately having him euthanized.

    But Cathrine and Nils weren’t going to give up that easily. So they did what any parent would do — they fought to track down someone who would perform the surgery.

    After encountering a series of dead ends, they found Kieran Borgeat of Highcroft Veterinary Referrals in Bristol, who agreed to perform the operation.

    To get there, the dog owners drove 2,400-miles (roundtrip), passing through eight countries — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and France — to bring Pelle to Dr. Borgeat’s practice, where he would undergo the surgery.

    The surgery went smoothly, and after a four-day hospital stay, Pelle returned to Norway safe and sound.


  7. HIV Won’t Kill You, But the Stigma Might

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    NPR recently interviewed two men living with HIV about the stigma surrounding the virus. Mark King — who was diagnosed HIV+ in 1985, when it was still a death sentence — says he believes that as medications have improved, and as the lives of those of us with HIV have improved, social stigma surrounding the virus has risen.

    “In the early years, we were doing everything we could just to help the dying, and there was no time to point fingers or blame or judge people,” says King. “Now, if you were to test positive today, how did that happen? What a disappointment you are. Why weren’t you listening to all these prevention messages that we’ve been giving you all these years? You must be a terrible person.”


    HIV-related stigmas hinder efforts to prevent the virus from spreading

    HIV is not the disease it was in 1985, or even in 1995 for that matter. Today, people who are HIV-positive and take their medication properly have the same life expectancy as those who are negative. Yet according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2013, there were approximately 35 million people around the globe who were living with HIV or AIDS.

    Despite significant strides made in the last several years, the epidemic is by no means over, and the HIV/AIDS-related stigma is a major hindrance in changing those statistics.

    Studies found that among people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa, those who experienced stigma or discrimination were less likely to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partner, and non-disclosure was associated with transmission risk behavior. A similar study in France sampled more than 2,000 sexually active people living with HIV/AIDS and found that discrimination was associated with increased unsafe sex.


    We know stigma exists, but there is little research into how to end it

    A 2010 study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that there have been surprisingly few studies focused on developing valid and reliable measures of HIV-related stigma or on assessing ways to reduce those stigmas.

    Furthermore, the researchers found that HIV-related stigmas are often not explicitly defined in those materials. The programs that do exist are modeled after those designed to deal with other forms of stigma, rather than for the specific and complex stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

    If we’re still too afraid actually say about what it is we are dealing with — to define the stigma — how can we possibly create effective ways to treat it?


    How we can end the stigma on the personal level

    The stigmas associated with HIV and AIDS are so deeply embedded in our language that we don’t even realize we are perpetuating them.

    While individuals don’t construct stereotypes on their own, they do have the power to change them. Be empowered: be mindful of your language when talking about HIV and AIDS, educate yourself on the virus and how it spreads, and speak openly about getting tested and disclosing your own status.

    A community’s attitudes are shaped by the people who comprise it.