New identity

Becoming the Positive Resource Center

Jeffrey Markley, photography by Neal Bruns

Jeffrey Markley, photography by Neal Bruns

After 30 years of being the AIDS Task Force, the social service agency that helps people who are living with AIDS has a new identity: Positive Resource Center.

Executive Director Jeffrey Markley said the group’s original name reflected what was thought about the AIDS crisis at the time: it needed the kind of immediate action a “task force” could provide. But advances in treatment made since then have turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable, albeit chronic, condition.

“We don’t deal with AIDS near as much,” Markley said. “We deal with HIV, and they’re two different things. HIV is the virus that left undetected and untreated will develop into AIDS.”

Markley has been the agency’s executive director for the past 18 months and was a volunteer there for 27 years.

“Back in the day (AIDS) was such a new issue, and you know it sounds kind of hokey to say, but I just felt a calling to (volunteer) and get involved.”

Markley has long been involved in the fight against AIDS, during the 1980s as a disease intervention specialist with the Fort Wayne/Allen County Department of Health and as a volunteer with the AIDS Task Force.

In the past, “it was really helping people to die with AIDS, to have dignity and support,” he recalled.

“Back in the day, you did hope that you could get someone on AZT (the first AIDS treatment) and keep them alive for another six months. You wanted to buy enough time for them to take advantage of the next new medical progress,” he said. Today, “there are long-term survivors who have been living with this for the past 30 years. It is a different game now.”

Because of these advances, the agency’s supporters and staff began rethinking the agency’s mission – and its name.

“If you’re positive today and you’re aware of that, we can link you with care, get (you) a doctor,” he said. “Your life expectancy is not that much less than someone who is not positive. Absolutely there’s hope.”

Today’s medication can lower the virus to an undetectable amount in the bloodstream, which can reduce a person’s ability to transmit the virus, Markley said. The lower an individual’s viral load is, the lower the community’s viral load can be. And by helping connect HIV-positive patients with infectious disease and primary care physicians, offering financial and insurance help and other resources, the agency can help make living with HIV less traumatic.

“It just feels good to be able to give back,” he said. “I think I’ve always been someone who’s rooted for and supported the underdog. Especially in the beginning, HIV and AIDS was really an underdog situation. And I get a lot of reward working for and within the community so the community can be a healthier place to be. Fort Wayne is a very generous place to be. For me, it’s the right thing to do.”

First appeared in the March 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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