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August 26, 2011

ARC Ohio merges with Ohio AIDS Coalition

Columbus--The largest AIDS service organization in the state just got a little larger, as the AIDS Resource Center Ohio board voted unanimously last weekend to merge with the Ohio AIDS Coalition.

The coalition’s board also voted unanimously for the merger, two weeks earlier.

The Ohio AIDS Coalition was formed in 1989, and has been at the forefront of advocacy for HIV services in the state since then. It has held 75 Healing Weekends for people with HIV, as well as leadership summits for HIV-positive young adults and other education and advocacy programs.

Unlike other AIDS organizations around the state, OAC is a membership group. The funds raised from dues put on the programs, as well as help pay for people with HIV or AIDS to speak to their representatives in Congress. Its membership includes not only people with HIV, but also their family members, caregivers and others concerned with the disease and its effects.

OAC operates throughout the state, with board members from different cities and programs across the map to make them more readily available for people to participate in them.

After the merger, the Ohio AIDS Coalition name will remain attached to its programs, although it will operate under the aegis of ARC Ohio’s non-profit status and benefit from the additional resources the larger organization brings to the table.

Originally formed from several Dayton-area groups, ARC Ohio merged with David’s House Compassion in Toledo in 2006 and with the Columbus AIDS Task Force this summer. It now provides HIV-related services in 66 counties--three-quarters of the state--and has offices in Athens, Chillicothe, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, Mansfield, Newark and Toledo.

OAC executive director Kevin Sullivan, who will stay on as advisor, said that the organization was in good financial shape right now, but the merger was necessary to secure that status for the future.

“OAC enjoys considerable respect around the state, but we’ve been aware of the need to secure long-term sustainability, and the need to extend the reach of advocacy by aligning with a larger organization,” he said. “This merger accomplishes both of those goals - on every level, it’s the right next step for OAC.”

“They’ve provided essential services over the years, with a talented, dedicated staff,” said Bill Hardy, the executive director of ARC Ohio. “We’re all committed to making sure that work goes on. And we all believe that by joining forces in this way, we can mobilize an even stronger voice in the advocacy and public policy education arenas.”

The July 1 merger with the Columbus AIDS Task Force positioned ARC Ohio to become the largest advocacy force on HIV in the Statehouse. With the addition of OAC’s advocacy work, they are now almost a “superpower” in the field. A policy brief released at the end of June on the inequality in prevention funding for men who have sex with men saw other major groups sign on to it, including the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Caracole in Cincinnati, Equality Ohio and the Community AIDS Network in Akron.

“The merger is a very important way to keep the legacy and progress of OAC alive,” said Naimah O’Neal, a board member of OAC from Cleveland. “This will ensure that OAC’s rich history of advocating for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS continues.”




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