For over two decades, the Pierce County AIDS Foundation (PCAF) has been a part of Dining Out for Life, a day where participating restaurants donate a large portion of their profits to local HIV-related charities.
Marzano Restaurant in Parkland has been a longtime supporter of PCAF and has made Dining Out for Life an annual tradition the past 25 years. Their partnership has raised thousands of dollars for vital programs dedicated to helping people who are HIV-positive in the South Sound region.
Dining Out for Life, which takes place on April 25, 2019, is an event for participants to bond over a meal and bring awareness to those living with HIV and to contribute to the local efforts that support people with the disease.
“Dining Out for Life is an international event that has been going on for a little bit longer than 25 years,” explains Jill Rose, Development and Communications Director at PCAF. “We were one of the first organizations that came on. About 60 cities across the nation participate. Even though it’s a national event, the money raised really supports the people here in the community.”
In the South Sound, the Pierce County AIDS Foundation helps to prevent the spread of HIV while also helping those with the disease to live full and productive lives. “PCAF is in four counties,” says Rose. “So, anyone living in Pierce, Thurston, Lewis or Mason Counties, or who is willing to come to those counties is eligible for prevention and education services. Anyone living in Washington State, who can get to our offices and who have been diagnosed with HIV, can access our case management services.”
Year after year, the owners of Marzano Restaurant, a mother and son duo, have always been the first to respond when asked to partner with PCAF for Dining Out for Life. This annual tradition has fostered many long-term relationships both within PCAF and with restaurant diners.
“We decided to participate because this is probably closer to our heart than most other organizations,” explains Elisa Marzano, co-owner of Marzano Restaurant. “And then, you make a connection with all the clients that come in and you make a connection with the organization. For me, it became a tradition for the customers that look forward every year to coming in. Plus, I have a personal connection to the cause.”
For PCAF, having that community support is vital to their mission. Their services are split into two categories: preventing the transmission of the disease and helping those who are HIV-positive live their life to the fullest. As HIV research and treatments have improved over the years, it is becoming a significant part of PCAF’s mission to help an aging HIV-positive population.
“There’s some really amazing, wonderful things happening right now with HIV research,” says Rose. “PrEP is a huge thing to prevent HIV. Also, people are getting older and living with HIV for longer. We have clients that have had HIV for 20 or 25 years, a long time, and they’re living happy, successful, productive, positive lives. That also means that as that population gets older, there are some things we’re going to need to do to help them to continue to thrive. Years ago, no one thought that would be a problem. People didn’t think about what it would be like to live with an ongoing chronic disease for 20, 30 or 40 years.”
Local Dining Out for Life proceeds, including from Marzano Restaurant, will go to PCAF’s HIV prevention efforts including education and access to PrEP, a medication that can be taken daily. If taken consistently, it has a very high success rate of preventing transmission of HIV infection.
Proceeds will also help with the organization’s case management program that assists people living with HIV with housing, medical and mental health resources, food assistance, and insurance navigation. “One of the things we really value about this event is that it elevates HIV awareness,” says Rose. “Even if people don’t have a clear connection to the cause, they hear a little bit about us, they learn a little bit about the work that we’re doing.”
For those close to PCAF, Dining Out for Life is seen as a celebration of life and community through the act of sharing a meal. It is a time to reflect on how far the world of HIV research has come and how much work there is still left to do.
“Dining Out for Life is the perfect combination,” says Brian Marzano, co-owner of Marzano Restaurant. “You get to go out, make a difference, make a contribution. You get your belly full of good pasta or Thai or whatever the restaurant serves. It brings the topic of HIV back up into awareness again. It’s a win-win for everybody.”