10 Questions: Glen Spencer

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Posted By on October 29, 2020
Glen Spencer, executive director of Aunt Rita’s Foundation

1. Tell us about yourself.

I’m very fortunate to be working in my second 
career as an HIV community leader following my own diagnosis in 2002, which ended my first career. I will live to see an end to the HIV epidemic! I’m also fortunate to have been partnered for 17 years, and 
we love to travel and socialize with our friends. 

2. You were diagnosed with AIDS in 2002. Take us back to when you received the diagnosis.

I was very sick, with multiple opportunistic infections along with wasting syndrome. I honestly did not know if I would make it, but thankfully my recovery was steady and sure. After two years of taking more than 20 medications per day, I was free of the opportunistic infections and beginning to recover. After three years, I returned to work in my second career.

3. How did you find meaning in the diagnosis?

Through community. The HIV service community is amazing. I have met so many wonderful people along the way and have been fortunate to help. All of these people are my inspiration.

4. How long have you been involved with Aunt Rita’s?

I first became involved with Aunt Rita’s in 2007, when I joined the board of directors and continued through the end of 2011. I was the emcee of AIDS Walk Arizona for three years, and then became the executive director in 2016.

5. How does the organization serve the community?

Aunt Rita’s is both a philanthropic organization and a programmatic HIV service organization. We raise money on behalf of HIV service organizations in Arizona, and since 2005 have grant-funded more than $2.1 million. We also engage the community with extensive education, HIV testing services, information and referral and advocacy.

6. Normalizing HIV testing is part of Aunt Rita’s mission. Tell us about GetTestedAZ.org.

We launched our HIV testing initiatives in 2018 with our home HIV testing program, and in 2019 began a partnership with Sonora Quest Laboratories and Albertsons/Safeway pharmacies. Through these testing initiatives, at-risk individuals across Arizona can receive a free HIV test, either in the privacy of their own home or at a trusted partner. These initiatives are designed to eliminate the stigma of HIV testing and increase the availability and accessibility of testing.

7. How many people in Arizona currently live with HIV/AIDS, and what are some of the biggest challenges they face?

Currently, about 19,000 people in Arizona live with HIV. Engaging HIV-positive patients in medical care is the primary goal of the HIV service community. Overcoming stigma and a host of social issues (homelessness, mental health, substance use) are our primary challenges to maintain patient care.

8. What are your goals for Aunt Rita’s?

We are developing programming to support the rapidly growing population of older HIV-positive adults. These individuals will be utilizing traditional aging services in the near future, and there is a great need to increase the knowledge and understanding of the unique needs of this population among aging service providers.

9. How has the COVID-19 crisis affected the work you do?

Our home HIV test kit program has exploded with activity during COVID-19, and we have had to seek additional funding to maintain the operations — which we have! We have also had to reinvent our fundraising events as virtual events and are working hard to overcome reduced giving due to the economic challenges so many are facing.

10. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

That I love what I do!

To learn more, go to auntritas.org.

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