Now entering its 10th year in Nashville, Dining Out for Life has been one of the most popular and widespread fundraising events for Nashville CARES. With over 50 restaurants participating and thousands of diners expected to visit them, this year’s event looks to be one of the best yet.

But a question on many people’s minds is where does all the money go?

“When I was first diagnosed about being HIV-positive, I didn’t know where to turn,” Timothy Gistover says of his diagnosis 17 years ago. “Nashville CARES was there. I’ve been living with full-blown AIDS for the last 14 of those 17 years. It was scary making the move from being told you were HIV-positive to the point where I knew that I had full-blown AIDS. Nashville CARES was an organization that opened my eyes to life and has given me the sustainability, purpose, and meaning for me to be able to go forward. They have checked on me after illness, made sure I have something in my refrigerator to eat, and helped me with my insurance to maintain my health with the medication I need.”

“The first few days and weeks after finding out that I was HIV-positive, Nashville CARES was there for me,” says BNA Talent Group owner Josh Robbins. “I got HIV, and I was thinking: Now what do I do? I need a doctor. I need medicine. I need treatment. Where do I go? What do I do? Do I call my insurance company? Do I not call my insurance company? Nashville CARES was there for me from the very beginning.”

“Nashville CARES has been my biggest cheerleader,” says Katrina Robertson, a former addict and prostitute who is now National Sales Director for Thistle Farms, the bath and body company run by the residents and graduates of the Magdalene recovery program. “They told me that not only could I be a productive member of society, but I could travel all over the world if I wanted to. And that’s what I do with the job that I work at.”

“Nashville CARES provides comprehensive support to 65,000 men, women and youth from every walk of life in Middle Tennessee,” says Nashville CARES CEO Joseph Interrante of the organization’s mission to aid people like Gistover, Robbins, and Robertson. “We offer unfettered access to high-quality, life-extending care free of stigma and discrimination.”

Because it is now known that continued treatment also helps to prevent new infections, Nashville CARES is working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in ways not thought possible five years ago, This proves as much of a challenge as it is a promise, as one out of five people infected with HIV does not know because he or she has not been tested due to stereotypes about who is at risk, fear of social consequences for being diagnosed with HIV, and lack of understanding about the benefits of early detection and treatment. Also, two of every five people diagnosed do not enter care or stay in care with enough consistency to realize the individual and public health benefits of treatment.

To overcome these barriers, Nashville CARES relies on Dining Out for Life and other fundraisers as the group expands its efforts.

“We have radically stepped up our community education outreach and testing programs,” Interrante says. “We have expanded our efforts to find and link people with HIV to care and are created new educational support programs to reduce that medical dropout rate.” Nashville CARES has also strengthened its support services so that worries over housing or food or struggles with periodic depression or recurrent addiction do not become barriers to good adherence.

“We have been doing so well for many years,” Interrante concludes, “but we have decided that doing well is not good enough for our vision of an AIDS-free generation.”

To help Nashville CARES achieve its goals of continued education and support, attend Dining Out for Life on Tuesday, April 24. For more information and a list of participating restaurants, log on to diningoutforlife.com/nashville. 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville


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