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A Conversation with Maxwell Cameron, AmeriCorps Alum

Maxwell Cameron is the Executive Director of World AIDS Day Detroit. Originally from Detroit, MI, he served as an AIDS United AmeriCorps Member in Detroit in 2009-2010. After his year of AmeriCorps service, he did fund development work with AIDS Walk Detroit, AIDS Walk San Francisco, and AIDS Walk for Life in Toronto, Canada. We caught up with Maxwell to discuss his new position at World AIDS Day Detroit and how his AmeriCorps experience has influenced his career in HIV/AIDS.

Why are you drawn to HIV/AIDS work?

I first got involved in HIV/AIDS in high school, when I helped organize a World AIDS Day event. Initially, I was interested in the international aspect of HIV/AIDS and community development. I started a group at my university where we did testing and counseling in rural communities in northern Tanzania.

I was also actively volunteering with social justice groups, and it became clear to me how much HIV was a social justice issue here in the United States as well. HIV intersects with so many critical issues, such as homelessness, LGBTQ rights, and access to health care. The health disparities in HIV/AIDS are immense and I am committed to helping change this.

Congratulations on your new position with World AIDS Day Detroit! What are your goals as their Executive Director?

Thank you! World AIDS Day Detroit was started in 2011, and since then has planned a number of very successful initiatives, focused on galvanizing the public in commemoration of World AIDS Day. Since then, World AIDS Day has become the largest HIV awareness event in Detroit, and we want to use this powerful platform to highlight and support the important work being done by other AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) in Michigan. Beginning in 2015 we are focused on expanding the mission of our organization to not only include awareness, but to serve the community through grant making. There is a need for grant making for HIV/AIDS programs and services in Southeast Michigan, and our organization is looking to serve that function.

We are planning to start this year with World AIDS Day 2015! World AIDS Day happens to fall on #GivingTuesday, so it is a great time to focus on the role that philanthropy and giving play in terms of sustaining HIV/AIDS programs throughout Michigan.

You served as an AIDS United AmeriCorps Member in Detroit in 2009-10. Tell us a bit about your experience.

I served with the case management team at Health Emergency Lifeline Program (HELP), doing early intervention outreach. I had had previous international experience with HIV/AIDS, but AmeriCorps was my first professional experience in working in the HIV field here in the states. My service year also laid my foundation of knowledge about the Detroit community, which has been immensely helpful! On top of that, all of the training we received from AIDS United and locally in Detroit, from HIV 101, to how to best serve transgender individuals, to testing and counseling, was incredible.

How has your AmeriCorps experience affected or benefited your career?

My AmeriCorps service set up my career trajectory. In addition to the experience and skills gained, through my service year, I became very involved in the Detroit community. I was able to meet so many people including other service providers, executive directors, you name it. I still see people who I met during my service who remember me from AmeriCorps.

At the end of my service term, my Host Agency created a new position in development for me. My community connections were incredibly valuable in that role (and are very helpful for my current position as well)!

Also, as I have applied for jobs and networked in my life after AmeriCorps, I have found that the AIDS United and AmeriCorps names carry a lot of weight. People are familiar with this program and are impressed with my service experience.

What advice would you give to current AmeriCorps Members as they think about pursuing careers in HIV/AIDS?

Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can during your service year. As an AIDS United AmeriCorps Member, you are in a unique position. This is an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in HIV/AIDS, make connections with other AmeriCorps Members, and learn about what it means to work in the nonprofit sector. With this knowledge and experience, you will be so much better equipped as you explore job or school opportunities after AmeriCorps.

Posted By: Sarah Hashmall, Program Manager, AIDS United AmeriCorps Alum ‘09-11 - Monday, October 12, 2015

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