“Dining Out for Life is by far the easiest way to get involved [in the fight against HIV/AIDS],” dedicated volunteer Thomas Huesby said. “It’s a win-win situation.”
He would know. Huesby has volunteered and worked for various AIDS service organizations throughout the country, starting at age 15.
“My first job was an internship with the Utah AIDS Foundation (UAF),” Huesby said, and he’s been involved ever since.
“I had friends that were infected—and affected—by HIV/AIDS,” Huesby explained. Huesby recently made the transition from volunteer to employee at the Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council (SLAC), in a clinical setting.
With 15 years of experience under his belt, Huesby is able to contribute to a number of growing programs. For example, the Teen Outreach Program (TOP), which is a “pilot program, and is impressive work as far as prevention,” Huesby said. “Prevention is more and more important, and TOP teaches life skills,” Huesby said. “TOP builds self-esteem and teaches teens to communicate with family and friends,” giving the teenagers the courage and knowledge to discuss topics like HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, and violence.
Another program that Huesby stands behind is the Wyman program. “The Wyman program started in St. Louis, and focuses on prevention navigation,” Huesby said. “We work with couples who have an HIV negative partner, and we work to keep them negative.”
Huesby began his career in HIV/AIDS services in Utah, then volunteered while in college in Tucson, AZ, and is now settled in Lake Charles, LA. In each area, he sees different hurdles to jump to fight HIV/AIDS.
“There are difficulties in each geographical location,” Huesby said. “Utah is conservative; Tucson has undocumented people who are terrified to seek treatment because of the fear of immigration,” Huesby observed.
“Lake Charles is traditional, and there’s a lot of superstition and a general lack of knowledge and health literacy.”
“But, the younger the generation, the more educated they are. It’s getting better, and hopefully that will continue.”