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An Interview With Joni Bishop of BEBASHI
By Clayton Ruley

In 2005, GeoClan.com talked with Joni Bishop, Director of Development and Public Relations for BEBASHI. Along with working to thwart sexual health issues, Ms. Bishop consistently shows dedication to community service in all fields and is all about Uploading Change! Check out the interview with this positive woman as she talks about BEBASHI and what they are doing to help the community.

GeoClan.com: What does BEBASHI mean? How did it get started and how long have you people been in business of helping people? 

Joni Bishop: BEBASHI used to stand for Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues. It was created in 1985 and this year, we commemorate 20 years of service as the first minority based, AIDS Service organization in the United States!  


Today, we call ourselves, BEBASHI - Transition to Hope.  We are moving away from the acronym of Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues because we felt it was too exclusive.  We had people calling us and saying - "hey I'm latino, but I need an HIV test - can I still come to you guys?" So we didnt want to exclude anyone or make anyone feel that they are not welcome for services based upon race, gender or creed.  

BEBASHI began as an outreach and prevention based agency, we have since grown to include direct care services for people living with HIV and a host of supportive services.


GC: What type of services to you do? Any partnerships and how many people do you service in philly (and outside philly if any)?

JB: We provide a continuum of care around sexual health ranging from education to HIV, STD and pregnancy counseling and testing.  We also provide case
management for HIV+ individuals, and offer specialized case management working with women, older adults (50 + years), African immigrants, and ex-offenders.  We are the only AIDS service organization that works with all 27 State Prisons to provide discharge planning with an inmate six months prior to release.  In addition, we offer housing counseling, care outreach, support groups, a food cupboard, and are involved in a national research project with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called the Black Men's Health Survey - where we gather information on the prevalence and incidence rates of HIV infection in the Black MSM population.

We serve over 15,000 each year and collaborate with over 80 social service organizations in the area to further enhance our services.  All services are free of charge.  

Our mission is to provide culturally-sensitive health related information, direct service, technical assistance, consumer advocacy, and research to the urban community.

GC: What do you think is the biggest misconception surround the hiv/aids pandemic?

JB: The most common misconception about HIV/AIDS is that "it won't happen to me". There is nothing further from the truth.  Since I started working at BEBASHI
I have met many young women who are HIV +.  Other common misconceptions are that the government started this disease and that there is a cure.  We need to focus on where we are today, and come together to prevent this epidemic from further ravaging America.  HIV/AIDS is Preventable.

GC: What can people do to be more safe and where/when can they go and get tested?

JB: People can start with valuing their lives. If you do, then you would use a condom each and every time you have sex.  Every time you have unprotected sex
you are playing Russian roulette with your life.  You should get regular sexual health check-ups, HIV tests,  and incorporate sexual health into overall
wellness.  

BEBASHI offers free and anonymous STD, pregnancy, and HIV testing and counseling.  We also provide free male and female condoms.  We are located at 1217 Spring Garden Street, 1st Fl. Philadelphia, PA  19123 and no appointment is needed.  We also provide testing at The Washington West Project every Tuesday night from 5:30 - 8:30pm on 1201 Locust Street.

GC: How supportive has the city, state and people of philly been of BEBASHI?

JB: We have enjoyed support from both the city and state.  We are always working to make people in Philadelphia more aware of HIV and how they can make a difference in their community.  

GC: Tell us about the calendar how the concept came about and how the people can get it? Also where is the funds going towards?

JB: The 2005 Sexy Singles Calendar was an idea I had while doing the photo shoot for the Daily News.  I was picked as a Sexy Single in 2004 and when I was at
the shoot, I met other women who were absolutely amazing!  It made me think of how can we come together to do something for other women.  I thought of a calendar by women for women!  I approached the Daily News about using their concept "Sexy Singles" & the photos of the women.  Then we asked the women who were featured if they would be interested and they all were!  So we went ahead and produced a calendar that bears safe sex messages and serves to commemorate our 20th Anniversary.  The proceeds from the calendar benefit HIV+ women.

GC: As the Director of Development and PR what do you do on a daily basis?

JB: WOW!  I don't even know where to begin!  My primary responsibilities are to oversee all fundraising and public relations activities for BEBASHI.  In fundraising, we raise money through different avenues such as special events, individual donors, and corporate and foundation grants.  On a daily basis, I strategize on each of these tactics and plan accordingly.  

I also serve as the spokesperson for the agency, so I handle all media calls, create PSA's, work on placements via different media outlets such as radio and print, and also work to position BEBASHI as a leader in the city in providing HIV/AIDS services.  I have to say, that I love my job.  It allows me to meet so many interesting people, challenges me on many different levels, and most of all, I feel like I am making a difference.

GC: What does making change (thinking of geoclan.com slogan/goal of uploading change) mean to answer for you?

JB: Making change starts with your self. If you can change one person for the better, you have done your work in creating social change. I think we as individuals lead by example, so if you can be a good person in your everyday life, and do unto others as you would want done onto you - you're on the right track.  I truly believe in the saying: "you must stand for something, or you will fall for
everything".

GC: How do you feel about being featured as a sexy single in the Philadelphia Daily News?

JB: I was very flattered to be picked as one of 25 in Philly!  I hardly think of myself as sexy - because the number one comment I get is that I am funny….I
think I am rather goofy!  A friend nominated me and one thing led to another - you know.....all in all it was a great experience and I am glad I did it!  I even made some great friends along the way!

GC: Any upcoming events we should know of?

JB: Yep - on June 24th we are celebrating National HIV testing Day at the Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with an event that we partner with Squarebiz to produce called Dancing in the Streets.  Stacey Wilson and I put it together 2 years ago and it's still going strong.  Come out and join us for Dancing in the Streets 3 - it's free from 7pm-12am!

GC: Thanks for the interview and for anymore on BEBASHI check out there site at www.bebashi.org.



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