Episode 22: Until There’s a Cure

Until this past year and a half, many of us think about disease and illness as things that affect other people and not us. COVID changed all of that for everyone. We all realized how closely we are connected and our opinions of health are forever altered. Before COVID, there was something called AIDS that many of us have forgotten about.  One person who hasn’t forgotten is our guest today, Nora Hanna, the Executive Director of Until There’s A Cure.

Join us as we discuss how the landscape has changed for AIDS and the beauty of what happens when people come together to make a difference. So often we think with nonprofits we are taking on impossible causes. This conversation was so enlightening because it really shows us that time and commitment result in positive changes. Until There’s A Cure is a wonderful example of one organization’s mission to continue to educate the world on HIV AIDS.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about Until There’s a Cure?

Nora Hanna:  Until There’s A Cure was started in 1993 by two moms in Northern California who were really worried about what the world was going to look like for their children. They were devastated by the loss of friends to HIV and AIDS. So they came up with the idea to sell a bracelet to raise funds and awareness. It was a simple idea that has had a huge impact. We were the first nonprofit of any kind to celebrate it.

We started working with small artisan groups around the world, mostly in Africa. The goal was to find women who are true artists and giving them a vehicle to sell their merchandise. What it’s enabled them to do is really take what they’ve been doing for generations. We buy it from them, help them market it and then we sell it. Then with the funds that they have raised, they have started school for their daughters, they have been able to feed their children, they have been able to buy their own medication. So it’s really embracing, educating, and empowering villages of women. And when you change the life of one woman, you change the life of an entire village.

Charity Matters: What is the Back sTory of Until There’s a Cure?

Nora Hanna: In 1993, when they actually named the foundation Until There’s a Cure,  there was a lot of backlash. People didn’t want to talk about a cure, they wanted to talk about therapeutics to keep people alive. The foundation has always worried about today, direct care services, education prevention, and then the future vaccine research and development. So it is, and always has been today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now. So it is quite fascinating to look at what has come down the pike.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Nora Hanna:  Trying to raise funds during another pandemic has been a huge challenge. And complacency. People really do believe that AIDS, HIV has been cured. Because we don’t talk about it as a society, it’s not at the forefront. HIV doesn’t directly impact people like cancer,  autism, and all the other well-funded organizations out there.  We just need to keep talking about that HIV is still here. Yes, you can live a very long productive life. But just like any chronic illness, you don’t want to have to take medication for the rest of your life.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Nora Hanna:  I grew up in the fashion industry and had my own jewelry company. In the 80s, in the 90s, our industry was hit so hard. I lived in New York then and I took care of two of my best friends until they passed on.  I carry that with me every day.  I’ve known so many people whose lives were cut short, in their 30s and it just makes me want to work twice as hard.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Nora Hanna: Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, three of our organizations had gotten very large orders for their merchandise. We were really hurrying to get everything from Zambia and South Africa to us.  I was very worried and I didn’t know what to do next. Eventually, I received a couple of messages from our partners in South Africa thanking me for the money. The funds saved their entire village for five weeks and allowed their children to eat. That is when you have to say, I need to work twice as hard.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

Nora Hanna: We have been able to provide seed money for the International AIDS vaccine initiative and we have helped fund, UCSF aids Institute. We work with Food for Thought up in Sonoma, California,  feeding people living with HIV and AIDS for 30 years. Since 1993 we have worked closely with the San Francisco Giants, which allows us to present our foundation to a packed stadium. So there are certain big chunks that you can look at and say we did that.

Through our internship program, we’ve worked with over 100 high school and college children. When our interns come in, I always say HIV is my passion. You need to find your passion. Whatever level you can give back, whether it’s volunteering once a year, or going to work for an organization, find it.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for your organization, what would that be?

Nora Hanna:  The dream is that we would find a vaccine that can be given away around the world for free.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Nora Hanna: I’ve always wanted to give back on a bigger scale than I’ve done in my past.  This work has really given me the opportunity to feel part of something so much bigger than myself. Really just to be grateful, every day that I’m allowed to do this work.



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Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF)

There is nothing better than friends supporting one another. A few weeks ago Jennifer Hillman of LuxAnthropy asked me if I had met the amazing people over at The Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation? The answer was that I hadn’t and to be honest I was completely naive in my thinking about AIDS, that was until I spoke with Joel Goldman who has acted as the Executive Director of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) for the past five years. With World AIDS Day here, this Saturday, December 1st, it seemed like the perfect time to share our enlightening and moving conversation.


Charity Matters: Joel give us some HISTORY of how the ETAF began?

Joel Goldman: In 1985 Elizabeth Taylor planned a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles, that was the same year that Ryan White was banned from entering school for having AIDS. Elizabeth’s friend, Rock Hudson died of AIDS that year along with 12,529 other Americans and Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson’s doctor, Dr. Michael Gottlieb, created the National AIDS Research Foundation, which became AmFar. By 1987 over 40,000 Americans were dead from AIDS and a year later that number jumped to 61,800 deaths. 

In 1991, Elizabeth Taylor sold her wedding photos to People Magazine for one million dollars to begin the funding for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. That same year Freddie Mercury of Queen died of AIDS and by now, one million Americans were infected with HIV. By 1996, the United Nations estimated that 22.6 million people worldwide were living with HIV and by 2002 HIV was the leading cause of death worldwide for people between the ages of 15-59. When Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 there were 34 million people living with AIDS.

I came to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation five years ago to lead this incredible organization without Elizabeth Taylor at the helm. My mission was to take her legacy and build a continued legacy in global health.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Does?

Joel Goldman: We were established to provide funding and grants to organizations around the globe that offer direct care to people living with AIDS and HIV.  We also focus on HIV education around the globe and advocacy programs.  We work on HIV criminalization reform that still exists in 31 states across our country. We have mobile clinics in Malawi that are treating up to 1,000 people per day.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Joel Goldman: What fuels me to keep doing this work is the global disparity in access to medication. There are over 36 million people globally living with HIV and millions do not have the same access to the medication they need. Our work is to ensure that everyone has an equal playing field.  Part of that work is education and going to Washington DC for AIDS advocacy on Capitol Hill.

Joel Goldman with Elizabeth Taylor’s grandchildren (photo:Sean Black)

Charity Matters: When do you know that you have made a difference?

Joel Goldman: We know we have made a difference with the education and awareness work we fund. We have made an impact on our advocacy laws and in the millions of people we serve with our support services. The ETAF has granted over twenty million dollars to over 675 organizations in 44 countries and 42 states. We make a difference every day in big and small ways.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from your time at the ETAF?

Joel Goldman: There have been so many life lessons learned during my five years here at ETAF. This was my first time in the Executive Director role and there was an immediate lesson in responsibility and truly caring for an organization and it’s legacy.

I have learned how much better our world would be if we all partnered instead of competed. I learned this when we partnered with a malaria organization in Africa because people were willing to be tested for malaria and afraid of being tested for HIV. Today because of that partnership we treat more malaria in Africa than HIV because we were willing to build a bridge to work together. More than anything, I have learned that if we are going to defeat something we ALL need to come together.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Joel Goldman: I was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, the next day I needed to fly to Los Angeles for a job interview from Indiana. I was in shock with my diagnosis and thinking I was going to die of AIDS, I upgraded my plane ticket to first class…thinking why not? On the plane, I ended up seating next to Ryan White’s mom, Jeanne. I thanked her for all she had done and was doing for AIDS patients, not sharing with her my diagnosis. I asked her why she was going to LA. She replied that she was going to give Elizabeth Taylor an award for her work with AIDS.

Five years ago, on my first day at the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, they gave me a stack of folders on the history of the organization. The first one I opened was the photo of Ryan White’s mother presenting Elizabeth Taylor with her award. I knew then and know now that I was meant to be here and to do this work. All I can hope is that I have done Elizabeth Taylor proud.




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Project Angel Food

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

Marianne Williamson

As we enter the month of November, it is time to think about food, hunger, and Thanksgiving, sort of the ying and yang that is life. It is a bit bizarre, that as we begin to think about the feast we are about to have, we somehow become acutely aware of those who struggle to have food or make a meal. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine connected me to an amazing organization called Project Angel Food. As someone who has a strong affinity for angels and who believes in signs, I knew I was being sent there for a reason.  I wanted to know more about the cause before taking my field trip to meet Project Angels Food’s Executive Director, Richard Ayoub.

The organization began in 1989 by the famous author and spiritual trail blazer, Marianne Williamson, as an outreach program of the LA Center for Living. The Center for Living was created to help people with life threatening illnesses and provide services and lunch for those who were too ill to leave their homes.  In response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic at the time, Project Angel Food moved into the kitchen of the Cresent Heights United Methodist Church.

I went down to see what this organization that really rose up to meet the HIV/AIDS crisis was doing today and have an enlightened tour and visit with their fantastic Executive Director, Richard Ayoub.

Richard Ayoub, Derbeh Vance, a volunteer of 20 years and Chef John

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Project Angel Food does?

Richard Ayoub: Project Angel Food cooks and delivers over 12,000 nutritious meals each week, free of charge, to the homes of men, women and children affected by life-threatening illnesses. Our vital food and nutrition services, include medically tailored meals, help the underserved people throughout Los Angeles County who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. We are referred by over 150 agencies and while we were created in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we expanded our mission in 2004 to help our neighbors who are struggling with any life threatening illness burdened by hunger and malnutrition.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Richard Ayoud: I like to go out and deliver meals to our clients and hear from them. Many of them are very sick and are not super sociable but many of them are craving someone just to talk too. We were visiting with an HIV patient in his fifties and he looked at me and said, “Can I give you a hug?” This man was SO grateful for our work, for his meal, and he held me in the longest biggest hug to let me know just how much our work meant to him. The one universal thing we see with all of our clients is gratitude.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Richard Ayoub: I know I was meant to be here and it was a calling. I was in broadcast journalism , I was a newscaster and yet I always wanted to make a difference more than anything. I believe that I was put here to serve these people. They fuel me to keep going.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had at Project Angel Food?

Richard Ayoub: Project Angel Food sometimes feels like LA’s best kept secret and people do not know how deep our commitment is to make made from scratch, healthy nutritious meals. Our favorite phone calls are when our clients call and say they are healthy and no longer need the meals, please give the food to someone else.

We have just entered into a pilot program with the state of California that is proving food is medicine, proving that we can keep people healthier and the results are amazing. We drive all 4,000 miles of LA County everyday. We believe in all forms of equity and we go the distance for our clients. In the last two and half years we have increased the people we feed by 30%. Our goal is always to feed more people. It costs us $2,000 to feed one person for a year. This year alone we will serve over 500,000 meals with over 4,700 volunteers.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has it changed you?

Richard Ayoub: I think one of my biggest life lessons is to just believe and to turn it over. The theory of just believing truly works with everything in our lives. In this work, one day you have a grant that you are counting on to feed people and you do not receive it. You want to give up and then out of nowhere you receive unsolicited donations that are even more than the grant. We have a supporter here who calls that “Divine Choreography.” These miracles constantly happen in this work.

This journey feels like my calling and everything I have done prior to this moment has prepared me for this. I am doing something to make the world a better place, even in a small way. This journey with Project Angel Food has brought out the essence of who I am and simply amplified it.

Everyday I walk into this building, I am grateful that I can simply come to work. Our clients dream of going to work, they are home bound and often times forgotten.  They are often times the invisible people of LA and we want them to know we remember them. We want everyone to know that, “you are not alone.” I think it is a message that we all need to hear.

Charity Matters



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